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Rowing Australia’s Focus On Indoor Rowing During COVID-19 Sees Exciting Engagement Levels, CEO Ian Robson Says

With the ongoing suspension or cancellation of most sporting competitions around the world due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Rowing Australia has seen great success shifting its focus to indoor rowing.

Rowing Australia CEO, Ian Robson, told Ministry of Sport the pandemic has been an opportunity to offer new indoor rowing events with a focus on participation over competition, and has helped engage new audiences.

“We wanted to find new ways to engage with and keep our members and indoors rowers active,” Robson said, in an interview with Ministry of Sport.

“This has been an opportunity to engage not only with our rowing community, but also those outside of it, through using indoor rowing machines.

“Most rowing clubs and schools loaned their members and pupils machines to take home during the lockdown.

“This, in turn, has allowed us to offer more indoor rowing events/challenges to our audience and the many participants who belong to gyms and fitness centres.

“Indoor rowing has been an area Rowing Australia has been active in, competitively, for the last four years.

“We’ve been running the Australian Indoor Rowing Championships since 2016.

“However, COVID-19 restrictions have allowed us to offer new events and, particularly, participation events rather than competitive races.

“It has also enabled us to offer international events working with our fellow National Rowing Federations in New Zealand, Great Britain, and Canada,” he said.

After Rowing Australia was forced to cancel the 2020 King’s and Queen’s Cup Interstate Regatta in March, which is part of the National Championships, they ran the 2020 Indoor Interstate Regatta.

The indoor rowing competition saw over 1600 participants total 78,447,239 metres over the two-week event.

Typically, Rowing Australia’s Indoor Rowing Championships normally has around 800 participants.

This event was followed by the 2020 ANZAC Day Indoor Rowing Challenge in partnership with Rowing NZ, encouraging Australians and New Zealanders to row 2504 metres (25 April) on ANZAC Day, which had over 1200 participants.

Currently, Rowing Australia is running a 10-day indoor rowing challenge, Row to the Moon, with Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain, and Canada combining to try row 384.4 million metres to travel from the Earth to the Moon.

“The numbers have been excellent, especially considering it is only those who have an indoor rowing machine at home who have been able to join in,” Robson said.

“We’ve had a steady growth in participants from our Domestic, Trans-Tasman and International events, which is extremely positive for us.

“We’re keen to continue to engage with this diverse group of participants and hopefully grow the sport of indoor rowing even more in the coming months and sustain engagement for the years ahead.

“I think as a sport we’ve learnt that we are adaptable, and we can continue to grow, even in times of hardship.

“Our sport has continued to adapt to change across all areas, from community-based clubs, all the way through to our elite Olympic/Paralympic aspiring athletes,” he said.