Smashing indoor rowing records at CRASH-Bs
What is it called when you bring together 2500 people from 34 countries to go as fast as they can on the indoor rowing machine for 2000m? It's the annual CRASH-B Indoor Rowing Championships - the original indoor rowing competition in Boston, United States.
What makes this event truly remarkable is the range of ages, shapes, sizes and abilities that all compete on exactly the same terms, on identical equipment, for exactly the same distance.
Coming into the large Agganis Arena indoor rowing venue at Boston University, and slightly unprepared for a northern United States winter, was Cuba's top single sculler, Angel Fournier Rodriguez. Fournier medalled at last year's World Rowing Championships in the single and his presence at CRASH-Bs was an historic moment. With the help of the United States Olympic Committee, US Rowing and Concept2, Fournier became the first Cuban to ever compete at CRASH Bs. And Fournier did not disappoint. He started off with the pack in the men's open race and then, using a negative split strategy, made his way to the head of the field to win in a time of 5:45.9. By the last 500m, Fournier was showing 1:21, 1:20 and even some 1:19 splits. Australia's two-time Olympian, Sam Loch finished second with Whiting Tennis from the United States in third.
In the open women's event, regular CRASH-B attendee, Kaisa Pajusalu of Estonia finished easily in front in a time of 6:43.6. Two local rowers, Lily Keane and Maureen McAuliffe battled it out for second and third with Keane finishing just 0.2 of a second ahead of McAuliffe in a time of 6:55.6.
But it was Sofia Asoumanaki of Greece that stole the show among the women competitors. At 17 years old, Asoumanaki set a new World Record by recording a time of 6:30.2 for the junior women's category. This knocked five seconds off the previous record that was set over ten years ago. Asoumanaki has a background in swimming and took up rowing just 18 months ago. Last year she finished fourth in the women's single sculls at the World Rowing Junior Championships.
Sofia Asoumanaki from Greece beats the junior World Record at the 2015 CRASH B Sprints in Boston, USA. ©Igor Belakovskiy
Another record was set at the other end of the age categories by Paul Guest of Australia. The 75-year-old won his category in a time of 7:13.2. But what make's Guest's story more captivating is his background. A former Olympic rower, Guest has survived a battle with cancer, the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack and a recent hip replacement to race at CRASH-Bs. Guest promised before he arrived that he would 'smash the crash'. And he did. Guest bettered the former World Record by nine seconds.
The very youthful Bob Spenger raced to break his own World Record in the 90-year-old category. Spenger set the record at 8:44.9 last month and at CRASH-Bs he bettered it by just over two seconds. Spenger has been rowing for 80 years. He rowed at university in the 1940s before taking up indoor rowing in 1989. He then began competing in 1994. Spenger has set eight World Records and says it's for "the kids to try to push themselves against (his records)." Spenger trains three days a week on the erg and supplements his training with hiking.
Each year the CRASH-Bs grows in the para-rowing categories and this year 89 para-athletes entered. Racing over 1000m both Curtis Halladay and Cameron Sinclair of Canada set records in their respective categories. The duo recently set World Records at Canada's Indoor Rowing Championships and there is every indication they will continue to get faster.
For full results: http://www.crash-b.org/past-regattas/2015-results/