The first World Rowing Indoor Championships took place February 17–18 in Alexandria, Virginia. A new collaboration with World Rowing, the Championships will be held at a different venue each year, moving around the world to provide a truly global capstone to the indoor rowing season. This year's event was hosted by the Erg Sprints, and saw an international field assembled from 32 different countries. The Open races gave a hint of the global nature of the race, with gold medals won by Finland, Poland, Ukraine and the United States, while a strong Chinese team impressed in taking all three podium spots in the Women's Under 23 (U23) event. There was a strong para-rowing contingent as well, with the three open para categories of PR1, PR2 and PR3 racing over 2000 meters, as well as age group para-racing over 1000 meters.
One of the best races of the championships came in the very first one on Sunday in the Men's PR3. In a phenomenal tussle between Great Britain's Sean Gaffney and Slovakia's Milan Lackovic, Lackovic found just enough strength to hold off a late surge from Gaffney to win in 6:32.2, in a race that saw the entire crowd on their feet, and people talking excitedly about it afterwards. For an event that broke new ground in indoor rowing, it was fitting that it was also one for falling records, with six new 2000 meter world bests.
Flying the flag for Veteran Lightweight Women, Jeanne Daprano and MaryEllen Moore broke the 80-84 and 85-89 lightweight women's records with 9:23.7 and 10:23.6 respectively. In the Open Women's category, Olena Buryak of Ukraine celebrated her recent 30th birthday in style, by setting a new time for the 30-39 Heavyweight Women of 6:26.1, beating the 14-year old record formerly held by Sarah Winckless of Great Britain.
Another long-standing record went earlier this month, when Andrew Benko of the United States beat Andy Ripley's old 50-54 Heavyweight record, which had stood since 1998. Benko broke his own record again in Alexandria, setting an incredible new mark of 6:01.7. The biggest record margin of the day belonged to another US athlete, when Susan Hooten took over 12 seconds off the existing Women's 65-69 Lightweight time winning her event in 7:44.6.
Perhaps the finest performance of the day, however, was by Christine Cavallo of the United States in the Women's Open Lightweight race. Christine is no stranger to indoor racing; she was the 2013 Junior Lightweight Indoor Champion. Determined, as she later said, not to peak at high school, she returned to the biggest stage there is and rowed an incredible 6:54.1, the fastest ever time by a lightweight woman, covering the last 500m in an amazing 1:42.5.
In the Men's Open race, the Czech Republic’s Jakub Podrazil blew the competition out of the water, winning by more than 10 seconds in 5:44.8, well ahead of Finland's Joel Naukkarinen. The Men's Lightweight race was a much closer affair, with Artur Mikolajczewski of Poland following up World Games success with a victory in a time of 6:07.4, just ahead of Matthias Taborsky (Austria) and Alistair Bond (New Zealand). Full results for the Championships, along with photos and video, can be found on the World Rowing website.
Concept2 would like to thank everybody who helped to make the event a success, especially the Erg Sprints organizers and volunteers, who worked tirelessly all week. The date and venue for the 2019 race will hopefully be announced in the next month or so, but with the great start provided by the Erg Sprints to build on, we're confident this is one you won't want to miss.