Roger Stainforth of Durham ARC rounded off another successful indoor rowing season with a magnificent silver medal-winning performance in the finals of the 2021 World Rowing Indoor Championships held between February 23rd and 27th. The Championships attracted 935 finalists from 63 countries who over the preceding three months had come through five Continental Qualifiers to reach this stage. Huge innovations were brought about in order to work around the limitations imposed by the Coronavirus pandemic, and the finals were hailed a great success.
The indoor rowing season generally takes place over the winter months when the Concept2 ergometer is used as a training instrument while opportunities for on-water training are limited. An ever expanding community of indoor rowing enthusiasts has over many years enjoyed a variety of competitions. The World Championships was instigated four years ago, and until last year had been staged annually at a different physical venue, the 2020 Championships being in Paris from where Roger returned with a bronze medal. Last May, World Rowing recognized that a fresh approach was needed if the 2021 Championships was to go ahead, and it was decided that to comply with travel restrictions and social distancing guidance this year’s event would be a virtual competition, open to anyone with access to a Concept2 machine, and that in order to ensure manageable numbers competitors would be asked to pre-qualify for the finals.
The international governing body of the sport of rowing was therefore able to deliver its first-ever ‘virtual’ sports competition in real-time to athletes from around the world as well as showcasing the event to a global audience, thanks to live video broadcasting solutions provided by sponsor Tencent Cloud and well-established global infrastructure.
Roger has a Concept2 Model C ergometer at his home in Durham and has been able to continue his training regime throughout the lockdown. He was a late starter in the sport, only taking up rowing after his 60th birthday as a means of maintaining fitness, and has since specialized in the indoor version where he has represented the Club many times in national and international competitions, winning the British Rowing Indoor Championships (BRIC) five times since 2015 as well as setting several British Records. He succeeded in gaining qualification for the World finals through his performance at the virtual BRIC in December, which also served as the European Continental qualifier.
Indoor racing is generally contested over a standard distance of 2km, and, for Masters, competition is subdivided into 5-year age bands to ensure fairness. At the appointed time of 14.27 Central European Time on Tuesday February 23rd, Roger, who is 76, lined up as the sole GB entry ‘alongside’ opponents from Canada, the USA and Australia in the 75-79 age group race. The race was combined with others at the older end of the spectrum which included 80-84, 85-89 and 90-94 groups, ensuring a cosmopolitan line-up which also included representatives from Ireland, Italy, Finland, New Zealand and Paraguay.
“There are days and races when the SIT READY, ATTENTION, ROW start sequence appears you feel well prepared and ready to go. That’s how I felt” explained Roger. “I had beaten the eventual winner George Petelin from Australia at BRIC 3 or 4 years ago and was up for the challenge. What unfolded in the next seven minutes was special. I had a good start but by 500m I was about 30m down and the gap increased remorselessly as George rowed on to set a new world record of 7:07.9, you have just got to admire that kind of performance. The third placed competitor was 62s behind me by the finish.”
Roger achieved a time of 7.30.4, lowering the time he had set just over two weeks earlier at the Canadian Virtual Championships by 5.5 seconds, giving him the silver medal behind George Petelin, who was competing with the time approaching midnight at his home in Queensland. Arthur Pearse of Canada took the bronze in 8.32.2.
Indoor rowing has a broad range of appeal, and George Petelin has enjoyed great longevity as a rower, having competed for Australia at the 1974 World Championships on water in Lucerne, Switzerland. Mike Hurley of Great Britain set an 85-89 World Record of 7.54.2. The oldest competitor at the Championships, 91 year-old Val Coleman, a member of Fishguard & Goodwick Jemima Rowing Club, representing Great Britain, also became the new world record holder in her category, setting a marker of 13.05.0 for the masters women’s 90-94 year-old 2000m. In all, six World Records were broken on day 1 and the Championships were off to a flying start!
Indoor rowing is an excellent socially distanced training option during the pandemic for anyone with access to a Concept2 machine, and consequently is enjoying a boom in popularity through the development of the technological innovations that have facilitated virtual competition. It is also being promoted heavily by British Rowing as a means of attracting new members to the sport.
You can find out more and watch live streaming of each day of competition on the World Rowing website.