Thousands Compete at the World Rowing Championships

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By Michael Carroll, CPO, FAAOP
Ethan EarlLeft: Varro competed in the championship for the first time
and found it to be awe-inspiring. Photograph courtesy of Michael Carroll.


Roughly 42,000 spectators and athletes from around the world attended the 2017 World Rowing Championships in Sarasota, Florida, in September. It was the first time in 23 years that the event, which included Olympic and Paralympic events, was held in the United States. More than 1,700 athletes representing 69 countries went for the gold in an impressive display of athleticism.

Athletes raced down a 2,000-meter course on a waterway specially designed to meet the International Rowing Federation specifications. The boats, mainly made of carbon fiber, carry up to eight rowers and one coxswain. Paralympic rowing shells carry up to four rowers and one coxswain.

Rowing is a full body sport that engages the athlete's legs, back, and arms. While some para-athletes do use their full body, athletes are classified based on their level of functionality. Athletes classified as Legs, Trunk, and Arms (LTA) use their full bodies to row. Athletes without functional use of their legs are classified as Trunk and Arms (TA) and athletes with limited control of their trunk are classified as Arms and Shoulders (AS). Depending on their classification, athletes may use an unmodified boat or a boat adapted with straps or special seating. Athletes who require prostheses or orthoses can use the devices during the race.

Spectators attending the event less than two weeks after Hurricane Irma impacted the area were inspired. For first-time Paralympic athlete and transtibial amputee Mike Varro it was much more. "Rowing on the world stage was incredible," he said. "Seeing and hearing athletes from around the world and all of the pomp and circumstance with it was jaw dropping."

Varro and his Team USA teammates took home the silver in the PR3 Mixed Coxed Four. Great Britain earned the gold medal and Italy took home the bronze.

The 2018 World Rowing Championships will be held September 9-16, Plovdiv, Bulgaria.