The second World Rowing Indoor Championships took place on Sunday, February 24, in the sunny climes of Long Beach, California. There was strong international flavor throughout the entire day. For the first time, the biggest international team came from Mexico, with 44 athletes competing. There were also large teams from France, Great Britain and Germany, but athletes came from far afield, with 35 separate countries represented, including competitors from Japan, South Korea, Egypt and Chile.
There was good para-rowing representation as well, with 78 athletes on the starting list. The Men’s PR3 saw a rematch of the 2018 race, as Sean Gaffney of the UK once again took on Milan Lackovič of Slovakia. This time around, the results were reversed as Sean emerged victorious in a time of 6:29.0 for 2000 meters, just outside his own World Record. The Women’s PR3 saw a tight race as well, with ten seconds covering the medal positions. Alexandra Reilly eventually emerged victorious, beating her mixed-four international team mate Danielle Hansen to the prize.
There were a number of world records set. In the Master J (age 80-82) Women's race, Luanne Mills, who has set many records in her time, added the Women's Heavyweight (Hwt) 80-89 age group record to her collection with a time of 8:47.5 for 2000 meters. On the Men’s side, Tom Darling broke his own 60-64 Heavyweight record, which he’d only set a week ago, with a time of 6:20.7. In one of the first races of the day, Allie Reilly of the USA set the fastest overall Women's PR3 para record of 7:22.5.
Other veterans worthy of note include Linda Muri, who took time out from helping to organize the race to win the Women’s Master F (age 55-59) race in 7:47.3, and Concept2’s own Dick Dreissigacker, who used all the knowledge imparted by actually inventing the RowErg, to win the Men’s Master H (age 70-74) in 7:25.8.
In the Men’s Under-23 Hwt category, there was an exciting back and forth for the lead for the duration of the race. Ward Lemmelijn of Belgium edged out Canada’s Charles Alexander in the final sprint, and finished with a 5:50.3—a PR and Belgium world record.
Arguably the loudest race of the day was for the Under-19 (Junior) Men. Jan Henrik Szymczak of Germany got in an early lead before settling down to win the race from the front in 6:11.1. Behind him, Ivan Ponce of Chile took silver in 6:15.4 while Clinton Regen thrilled the home crowd to take bronze, just ahead of Volodymyr Perstenkov of Ukraine.
The fastest 2k of the day was pulled by German phenom Oliver Zeidler (Men's Open), who added a world championship gold to go with the gold he won at the World Games in 2017. Zeidler has never been defeated on the indoor rower, and came into the race bubbling with confidence. He hit the lead from the start and dominated from beginning to end, winning in a time of 5:42.6. Behind him, a strong team from the USRowing Training Center filled out the rest of the podium, with Arne Landboe second and Alexander Richards third in 5:47.5 and 5:49.2 respectively. Overall 21 people in the Men’s Open race went under 6 minutes.
The fastest woman of the day was once again Olena Buryak (Women's Open) of the Ukraine. She revealed before the race that she felt ready for an “aggressive erg”, and she wasn’t daunted by facing the combined might of her US competitors, winning the race in a time of 6:25.6, breaking her own 30-39 world record. Again, the rest of the places were filled out by the USRowing Training Center. Brooke Mooney pulled away from Tracy Eisser in the end to take the silver with a 6:30.8. Eisser's time was 6:33.7.
The Senior (Open) Lightweight Men’s race turned out to be a bit of a classic, with Jason Osborne from Germany and Martino Goretti from Italy slugging it out. At 1000 meters in, it was neck and neck, with the lead changing hands every few strokes. With about 500 meters to go, Osborne, the Lightweight Men's Single Sculls at the World Championships in Plovdiv last year, started to pull away as Goretti paid for his fast start. Osborne won in 6:07.5, with Goretti second in 6:10.7. Alex Twist completed the medals with a bronze for the US in 6:19.2.
The Women’s Senior (Open) lightweight race turned into a procession for Justine Reston. The oldest woman in the field at age 50, she won by over 30 seconds in a time of 7:28.0, with second place being taken by Katelin Guregian, more familiar as the coxswain for the US Women's Eight.
Although the World Indoor Rowing Championships was only run over 2000m, the day also doubled up as the inaugural USRowing Indoor Championships and included 500m races open to all participants. Both gold medals in the 500m event went to Ukraine. Anton Bondarenko rowed a 1:15.3 to win the Men’s Open, while Olena Buryak doubled up her both her number of golds and her number of world records from the event, by winning the Women’s race in 1:27.9 and setting another Women's age 30-39 Hwt mark. Also noteworthy was Shawn Baker who won the Men’s age 50-54 race in 1:17.5.
The day finished off with a round of team races. These were a novelty to a lot of competitors, as athletes rowed on Concept2 Slides, rather than using the more familiar relay race format. Despite some worries from Great Britain’s Royal Navy Team, who had never previously been on Slides and seemed very worried on how to use them, all the competitors coped admirably in a discipline they weren’t familiar with. Long Beach took victories in the both the Men and Women’s quads, while Q-Power eeked out a win in the the mixed double.
This weekend also announced the venue for next year’s race, which will take place in Paris, France. It will be the first time the World Championships are hosted outside of North America. So, although we say goodbye to this year’s race, we’re looking forward to saying bonjour next year.