91-year-old breaks world record at world rowing indoor championships

Day 1 of the world rowing indoor championships at the Paramount Fine Foods Centre in Mississauga, Ont., was full of world records and historic moments, with many more expected Sunday.

'I’m not a grandmother that does crafts with the kids or bakes cookies'

A woman participates in a rowing challenge.
91-year-old Alida Kingswood of Woodstock, Ont., broke the world record in the lightweight 90-94 2,000m age category Saturday at the world rowing indoor championships in Mississauga, Ont. (Steve Parr)

Day 1 of the world rowing indoor championships at Paramount Fine Foods Centre in Mississauga, Ont., was full of world records and historic moments, with many more expected Sunday.

The action began with 91-year-old Alida Kingswood of Woodstock, Ont., shattering the world record in the lightweight 2,000 metres for those aged 90-94.  She was cheered by the home crowd and even by other competitors, beating the old mark by more than 90 seconds.

Kingswood finished in 10 minutes 33.30 seconds and remarkably looked like she could have gone another 2,000 metres.

"I do it for my children and my grandchildren. I'm not a grandmother that does crafts with the kids or bakes cookies," Kingswood said afterwards.

Kingswood just gets on an indoor machine and goes to the gym almost every day, even if some people are surprised.

"People say, 'Wow, I couldn't do that. But you can if you want to [do so].'"

4 other world records fall

There were four other world records set on Saturday, including the men's mark over 2,000 metres (70-74 age bracket) which saw Richard Stout edge fellow Canadian Phil Monckton in 6:44. The latter won a bronze medal with the Canadian rowing team at the 1984 Olympics.

"Being fit and doing what I'm doing at my age, I'm pretty happy with it," Monckton said.

The day was also big for the tiny Faroe Islands, located between Iceland and Norway with only 58,000 people.

The team, with six athletes from the tiny island where rowing is the national sport, won three world championship gold, including 18-year-old Mattias Durhuus in the men's 500.

"It puts the Faroe Islands on the map," Durhuus said. "People are aware of what we are, where we are and how much indoor rowing means to us," he added.

Indoor worlds is taking place in Canada for the first time and making history on many fronts. It is World Rowing's first hybrid event with more than a thousand of the top rowers in the world competing on the arena floor joined by several hundred competing virtually.

Ukraine adds 3 medals

One of those athletes competing virtually is former indoor world record holder Olena Buryak competing from Ukraine, despite the turmoil in her country.

Buryak, who fled her country almost a year ago to stay with a rower from Poland after Russia invaded, was back competing in the women's 500 (23-39 age category). She won gold and will compete again virtually on Sunday in the women's 2,000 (23-39).  She'll be up against two members of Canada's Olympic gold medal women's eight team, Sydney Payne and Kasia Gruchalla-Wesierski.

Ukrainians also claimed two of three podium spots in the men's U17 500 with Yaroslav Zakharov finishing 0.2 off a gold medal and Artem Baranov coming in third. 

Payne, who is from Toronto and started rowing after seeing a flyer for a learn-to-row program in a grocery store, is looking forward to competing at home in front of fans.

"It's going to be cool to be side-by-side with people throughout the race and the energy that brings, and to actually see fans where we normally don't in rowing [because they are normally only at the finish line]."

Gruchalla-Wesierski says this is a very special event for her as well.

"I'm super excited to race next to Syd; It's so special for me to be here with her and I think we have a pretty cool bond. We're trying to take that to [the] Paris [Olympics in 2024] so doing this together first is a special experience."

Versa Challenge decided on Sunday

Sunday will also be the culmination of the Versa Challenge, a series of five challenges over two days of the championships, designed to determine the most versatile indoor rowers in the world.

The first challenge was a gruelling series of races to test out the competitor's endurance.

One of the Canadians in the competition is Jason Marshall a former member of Canada's rugby team.

"It was very difficult. I'm now dreading the next workouts," Marshall said afterwards, adding "It's cool that our nation is holding a world recognized event.  I'm just happy to be here."

Wilfredo "Papito" Wilson was savouring the moment.

Wilson, who is competing at several events at the world championships, was born in Cuba and competed for Canada in Para Rowing at the Paralympics in Beijing.

"I'm very proud to be in Canada, representing this country and doing the sport I love. I'm happy that this event was here."

Action continues Sunday at 1:30 p.m. ET. Watch live coverage on, CBC Gem and the CBC Sports app.

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