A New Challenge at WRICH! | Concept2

A New Challenge at WRICH!

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Feb 23, 2023

whrich rowerConcept2 is proud to be the presenting sponsor of the 2023 World Rowing Indoor Championships (WRICH), staged this year as a hybrid event, February 25-26, 2023. For the first time ever, Canada is hosting the WRICH in Mississauga, Toronto. Competitors will join the action both in person, and virtually in real time from around the world, using the same timing and results system.

The two days will be action packed with individual races at the 2000m and 500m distances, team 2000m relay races, and para categories, too. For the first time, this year’s championship will feature the Versa Challenge, a competition made up of multiple events. Over two days and five different surprise events, the top ten men and women (who were chosen in November 2022 based on a qualification process) will compete to be crowned the inaugural World Rowing Versa Champion.

The Versa will be run as an in person event in Toronto and was created to offer a unique competition opportunity that cannot be replicated at home. The Versa will test all the skills required of the athletes with new and unfamiliar race formats while introducing an element of uncertainty and variability. It promises to be exciting for spectators and competitors alike.

We've reached out to some of the competitors in the inaugural event to hear what they have to say about this exciting new format and what they’re most looking forward to.


Joel Naukkarinen, Finland

What do you think the Versa Challenge adds to the World Rowing Indoor Championships?
The Versa Challenge is a new and very exciting race format. Unknown race distances or challenges and their variety will make it interesting for athletes and the crowd. I don't remember when I have been as excited about an indoor rowing race.  

I see the Versa Challenge as a great step forward to making indoor rowing more than just preparation for flat water 2000 metre rowing. Indoor rowing allows so many other types of race formats. I think this is the first time those possibilities are utilized at the top level. By these means, indoor rowing can be made to attract different populations besides the on water rowing community.  

What was your sporting background before rowing?
I started boxing at the age of 15. A few years later, I found that I was much better at rowing and switched to that sport after rational thinking, even though I liked the adrenaline in fighting much more. Now, also as a medical doctor and neuroscientist, I think that was a very good choice from every perspective.         


Kirsten Kline, USA

What are you looking forward to/hoping for in the Versa Challenge?   
Actually, the thing I'm looking forward to the most is meeting a lot of the online rowers that I've known for years. There are several that I started my indoor rowing journey with (on a virtual team) that I'm actually going to be competing against. Anna Mühle is one, and Morgan McGrath. I've known them since I started rowing. The rowing community is such a wonderful community, so I know it'll be a great turnout and fun to participate in. 

What are your strengths as an athlete?   
I think 1000% I can just hurt for a really long time. Like dig deep. I don't really like short stuff like sprints. I'll do them, but they're not my favorite. I would prefer a marathon over 2k any day of the week. I just like that steady hurt. I don't like those intense spurts of pain. I'd rather do a 30-minute piece where you hurt gradually, but not a 3-minute piece where you gotta go. So, I think my strength, really, is that I'm kind of stubborn and I can just sit in that pain cave for a long time and hang out there. 

How do you prepare for something like the Versa Challenge compared to a traditional indoor rowing race?
I've started exhausting myself on the BikeErg so that I could be prepared. I don't normally do several pieces a day. I start training in the morning and train throughout the day and my best pieces are always first when I'm freshest. So I've started working on being kind of tired before I move onto the next piece and try to exert myself on the later pieces in my training day, after I've already had some fatigue set in.


Jason Marshall, Canada

What are your strengths as an athlete?
I believe my strengths as an athlete are my mental toughness and work ethic. I was never the best athlete growing up, but I realized at a young age if I ever wanted to accomplish anything in sports, I’d have to be the hardest worker and put in time when no one else was. These are all things that I have control over, which is why I love the RowErg. You have full control over the success you have on the machine. The harder I pushed myself and the more time I spent on the RowErg the better my results got. My favorite quote and something I live by is, "hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard".   

How do you prepare for something like the Versa Challenge compared to a traditional indoor rowing race?
That's a good question. I have no idea. With the specific details of each Versa event kept secret, we need to be prepared for anything. My weakness is my short sprints so I know I need to put in some work, but for the most part I will keep my training routine the same leading up to the event.  

Do you remember your first workout on a Concept2 machine?   
My first memory of the Concept2 rowing machine was back in 2009. It was a 500 metre challenge and I thought I did pretty well, not having a clue what a good time was. I remember not being able to walk or talk for quite some time afterwards, though. I can honestly say it was not love at first sight and I hated the machine. That same relationship continued until about 2014. Over time, hate turned into love when I started to use it regularly for my rugby training.  

What was your sporting background before rowing?
I played multiple sports growing up with American football and rugby being my main focus. I attended the University in Canada to play football and after graduating, I had an opportunity to play rugby for the Canadian National Team. I jumped at the chance. I ended up playing for the national team for almost seven years and attended the Rugby World Cup in 2011. After the World Cup I gained the opportunity to play professionally in France and New Zealand until my retirement in 2016.  


Charlotte Dixon, Great Britain

What do you think the Versa Challenge adds to the World Rowing Indoor Championships?  
The Versa Challenge makes the competition so much more exciting! Normally in a standard indoor rowing competition you know the competitors' qualifying times and it can be clear who will come out on top. As the workouts are unknown and could be anything, the Versa Challenge means that the competition must be fought for throughout the whole weekend.  

How do you prepare for something like the Versa Challenge compared to a traditional indoor rowing race?  
It's fun to prepare for the Versa Challenge because as long as you're staying consistent and pushing yourself then any training is good training. We don't know what we will have to do, so I don't have to focus on preparation for one distance in comparison to preparing for a traditional race. However, as I am naturally a powerful athlete, I have been working on my endurance and stamina. I'm hoping this will also help with having to complete multiple tests in two days.  

Do you remember your first workout on a Concept2 machine?    
I joined my local gym as a complete newbie a couple of years ago and they had a 'Beginner Row' class to teach people how to row properly. I sat on a Concept2 rowing machine for the first time and I remember thinking it was one of the most difficult things I had done—that's why I loved it. After that, I loved seeing the progress because it became so rewarding.   


Anna Mühle, Germany

What do you think the Versa Challenge adds to the World Rowing Indoor Championships?   
Indoor rowing nowadays is so much more than just a 2k or 500m. When it comes to unusual pieces you need to figure out what is the goal and where your personal strength is. So, it´s a lot of tactics and it doesn’t always mean the fastest athlete in the field wins the workout. I think by watching the fun of this event, other rowers might start to look at training and competition differently! 

What are you looking forward to/hoping for in the Versa Challenge? 
Of course, I am looking for unusual tasks to test myself and also I would prefer sprints, just because I´m good at it. But also think a blind 6k would be cool—row 6000m without a monitor screen and the person who gets there the fastest and the closest wins! 

Do you remember your first workout on a Concept2 machine?    
I don´t remember the very first workouts in the CrossFit box but I remember the first proper rowing "competition". I signed up for a half marathon in a nearby CrossFit box and I prepared myself with a cushion on the seat, gloves, and watched the CrossFit Games during the row—things I wouldn’t do now! I felt great after but also tired! 

What was your sporting background before rowing?
In my youth I was a swimmer. There are many good rowers with a swimming background. Maybe we already developed a good feeling of producing pressure and finding the right moment in the connection to the machine to start pushing. Other than that, I studied sport science, played European handball for more than 15 years and of course CrossFit, which brought me to the RowErg. Also, I am a horse riding instructor and do ride horses pretty much every day. 


Morgan McGrath, United States

What do you think the Versa Challenge adds to the World Rowing Indoor Championships?  
I think the Versa Challenge will add a fun and interesting new element to the World Rowing Indoor Championships. It will be something outside of the typical races that spectators and other athletes can enjoy watching across the two days of racing.  

What are you looking forward to/hoping for in the Versa Challenge?  
Though it's not related to the Versa Challenge itself, what I am most looking forward to is the opportunity to celebrate the love of indoor rowing in person with members of the amazing indoor rowing community. There are so many athletes who will be in attendance who I have come to call friends, though we may have never met in person. I always say there is no losing in indoor rowing. When I enter a competition, even if I don’t win, I get to cheer and celebrate the win of a friend who I have watched work so hard to achieve that win. It's always win/win for me.  

How do you prepare for something like the Versa Challenge compared to a traditional indoor rowing race?  
When preparing for a traditional indoor rowing race, there is typically a clear goal in mind: To maximize performance at a specific single distance such as a 2k, 5k or 500m. There are numerous training plans and coaching strategies available for athletes for each of the standard benchmark distances. When preparing for the Versa Challenge, the athletes don’t have a specific distance/time goal to go off of, other than the two qualifying pieces and the information that there will be five different events. I had the wonderful opportunity to compete in the 2019 World Urban Games in Budapest, which was a six-event competition where the athletes did not know what challenges they would be faced with. I had these events in mind when I considered what I might do to prepare.  

Do you remember your first workout on a Concept2 machine?   
My very first workout on a Concept2 indoor rowing machine was February 6, 2016. My fitness studio had recently added indoor rowing to their class offerings, and to kick it off, they held a charity rowing session called Rowing for Red, to benefit the American Heart Association on National Wear Red Day. I do not recall the exact workout other than that it consisted of shorter intervals (I thought they were long at the time!) of somewhere between 250–600m with rests in between. Afterwards, I posted to social media: “Did 8 a.m Rowing for Red (First time rowing! Was fun!) and 9 a.m. Pilates boot camp with Ashley (awesome class!). Whew, I am one tired and sweaty girl!” I remember thinking, wow, that was really hard, but also feeling exhilarated and accomplished—the satisfied feeling of having had a great workout. Little did I know at the time what a large role indoor rowing would eventually have in my life!  

Meet all the Versa Challenge participants.

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