The COVID-19 pandemic has not stopped Rowing Australia from hosting the 2021 Australian Indoor Rowing Championships on Saturday 30 October.  

Unlike sporting events around Australia and the world that have been postponed or cancelled, the Australian Indoor Rowing Championships has attracted close to 800 local and international competitors, by virtue of virtual participation.  

Competitors come from every state and territory as well as the UK, USA, Egypt, France, South Africa, French Polynesia, Faroe Islands and Canada. There is also a strong cohort of competitors from New Zealand, with the schedule capturing people who have entered the Oceania Championships. 

Proving that age is no barrier to participation, the youngest competitor is 11 and the oldest is 85.  

More than 300 young people from seven schools across the country are taking part, thanks to Rowing Australia’s Official Partner, Coles.  

From the schoolyard to the backyard, location is also no limit.    

Competitors in Adelaide, Brisbane and Darwin may attend a local event centre, while all other competitors will join virtually.    

“The advantage of competing at the Australian Indoor Rowing Championships is that you can join from anywhere, all you need is a rowing machine, computer and an internet connection,” Ian Robson, Rowing Australia CEO said.   

“Participants quickly discover the benefits of indoor rowing and return year on year. A low impact sport with great health benefits, indoor rowing is a sport for all ages and abilities,” Robson continued. 

COVID-19 may have reduced the number of local event centres in 2021, but an enthusiastic indoor rowing community has embraced the event’s virtual nature.   

Jackie Rees is one such competitor.  

To the delight of her daughter, Rees will compete at her Sunshine Coast home instead of the Brisbane Event Centre.  

“The event falls on the same day as my daughter’s ninth birthday, so I’m going to race from home. I felt bad giving up the whole day, especially when she is so excited about turning nine,” Rees said.  

“I’ll have the whole family there and my birthday girl to support me, and I’ll row with her in mind. That’s the brilliant thing about indoor rowing, you can do it from anywhere,” she said.  

The accessible nature of indoor rowing is its X-Factor, but it’s not the only reason people are turning to the sport.  

“You can stay fit, healthy and for busy mum’s and parents, it’s such a good way to exercise and stay fit,” Rees said.   

A mother of two, Rees comes from a competitive sporting background and is a former triathlete. She discovered rowing on the water but switched to indoor machines when she became a mum, and she hasn’t looked back.  

“It was a sport I could do from home with young kids, it gives me a full body workout and it’s competitive.  

“Nothing has challenged my mind as much as indoor rowing has,” she said.   

In 2020, Rees represented Australia at the World Indoor Rowing Championships and won a bronze medal in the 2000m Women’s 30-39 age group. This weekend, she’s hoping to qualify for the 2022 World Championships, which will be held from 25-26 February 2022, in Hamburg (GER). This will be a hybrid event, allowing competitors the choice to compete in-person, or virtually from anywhere in the world.   

But before then, the member of the Sunshine Coast Indoor Rowing Club will aim to improve on the two silver medals she won in the Women’s 30-39 age group at the 2020 Australian Indoor Rowing Championships.   

“I was happy to get silver, but I was a little bit disappointed, obviously I want the gold,” she said.  

The 2021 Australian Indoor Rowing Championships will be held virtually and at event centres on Saturday 30 October. The event is supported by Major Partner, Sport Australia and Event Partners, Bont Rowing, 776BC, Coles and Aon. 

Proud supporter of rowing in Australia and New Zealand, The Colgan Foundation is also lending its support to the event. 

In 2020, 13 Australian records and 12 world records were broken, and organisers are excited to see what this year’s crop of competitors can achieve.   

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