At the age of 77 Durham’s Roger Stainforth remains a force to be reckoned with on the Masters Indoor Rowing stage and on Saturday he achieved his goal of taking the gold medal in the Men’s Masters 75-79 Heavyweight class over the 2000 metre distance at the World Rowing Indoor Championships.
Competing from home on his own ergo Roger posted a season’s best 7.29.1 for a split time of 1.52.2 to overcome opposition from Colin Bruce Slade of Great Britain and John Dawson of Australia, with the closest challenge coming from lightweight athlete Peter Robinson of New Zealand who recorded 7.42.3 while competing at around 4.50am local time.
For a second year the Championships took place as a wholly virtual event. It was Roger’s third attempt at the World Championships. In 2020 he returned from Paris, where the Championships was staged in a physical venue for the last time before the Covid-19 lockdown, with a bronze medal in a time of 7.32.3. Then in 2021 he set a time of 7.30.4 to take the silver medal in the first virtual Championships.
It had been planned to stage the 2022 Championships in Hamburg but because of the ongoing effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and the anticipated travel restrictions this did not happen.
After considering a hybrid event, World Rowing announced in December that the 2022 Championships would be a wholly virtual affair, sadly for Roger, who because of family connections would have welcomed the opportunity of a visit to Germany.
As was the case in 2021 competitors were required to pre-qualify to guaranteee their place in the finals which took place over 2 days on February 25th and 26th. Sanctioned continental qualifying events were arranged during December and January with the latest date for qualification set at February 2nd 2022. With no suitable British qualifier available and the European Championships cancelled Roger was able to obtain a qualifying standard through the Canadian Indoor Rowing Championships on January 30th, while at the same time successfully defending the Canadian 75-79 2k title that he won in 2021 and improving his time by a second to 7.34.6.
The World final was a multiple age-category race including heavyweight and lightweight competitors in the 75-79, 85-89 and 90-94 age groups, representing Great Britain, USA, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Norway and Finland. The result and race video is available here.
Athletes from 66 countries came to the start line for the finals, day 1 being principally for relays, adaptive events and the shorter 500 metre sprint while day 2 saw competitors taking on the 2000 metre events, with rowers taking part across a range of time zones in rowing clubs, living rooms, garages and balconies, often decorated proudly with their country’s flags and cheered on by supporters.
Three World Records were set on day 1, including Benita Clausen of Norway with 1.32.8 in the Women’s 50-59 500m, Jeff Arquette of the United States in the Lightweight 60+ 500m and Javier Reja Munoz of Spain in the PR1 men’s 2k.
On day 2 Richard Stout of Canada broke the World Record in the men’s 70-74 2000m category by almost two seconds with a time of 6.50.2, twenty-five seconds clear of his field. Fellow Canadian Alida Kingswood, set a World Record at the age of 90, when she achieved a time of 10.29.3 in the women’s 90-94 2000m race, and Dean Smith was the oldest athlete on the day to break a World Record, with 10.14.5 for the men’s 95-99 2000m.
93 year-old Val Coleman of Fishguard and Goodwick Jemima Rowing Club in Wales represented Great Britain for the second year in the Women’s 90-94 2k, while the oldest male competitor 96 year-old French man George Basse completed 2k in 11.48.6.
The fastest and most thrilling race was reserved for the men’s Open 2000m, in which Belgium’s Ward Lemmelijn, spurred on by a supporting crowd, was second for most of the race before surging past Russia’s Alexander Vyazovkin to become World Champion with a time of 5.41.7.
All was made possible thanks to technology solutions developed by co-sponsors Tencent Cloud with timing and results systems produced by Dutch company Time Team.
Photo shows Roger Stainforth with BRIC 2019 medal