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Rowing their way to success

Barrhead family competes at the indoor rowing provincial and world championships
L-R: Adonis, Olivia and Jennifer Pederson pose with their indoor rowing provincial championship medals.

BARRHEAD - A Barrhead family recently left their mark at two elite athletic competitions.

At the World Indoor Rowing Championships on the weekend of Feb. 25-26 in Mississauga, Ont. Jennifer Pederson and her 15-year-old son, Adonis, placed 12th in the 500 metres with a time of 1:34.4. Adonis also placed 36th in a field of 105 in the 2,000 metres or two kilometres boy's U17 category with a time of 7:11.2, while Jennifer placed in 10th in the 2,000 metres and seventh in the 500-metres sprint in women's 40-44 masters category.

A week later, at the Alberta Indoor Rowing Championship in Blackfalds, the pair were joined by 12-year-old Olivia, daughter of Jennifer and sister to Adonis.

Adonis, once again competing in the U-17 junior boys, won gold in the 2,000-metre distance with a time of 7:07.4, while Jennifer took home gold in the 1,000 metres.

However, Jennifer said the star of the family at the provincial competition was Olivia, who finished third in the 2,000 metres in the U15 girls category, going against athletes who, in many cases, were two years older.

"She's a powerful little bugger," Jennifer said, adding it is rare to see children Olivia's age competing, noting she was the only 12-year-old in the competition. 'The rest were either 14 or 15."

The sport simulates rowing on actual water by connecting indoor rowing fitness machines to the Internet, which is then broadcast to a video screen.

Jennifer, a competitive rower since her University of Alberta days, said many athletes use indoor rowing competitions to gear up for the outdoor season.

However, the rowing variation’s popularity has steadily increased, and for many athletes, it has become a stand-alone sport.

Jennifer noted that interest in indoor rowing surged, in large part, due to the pandemic, adding that rowing machines, especially compared to a lot of other home fitness equipment, are compact and storable.

"It is also a great workout as it improves cardiovascular endurance and works more than 85 per cent of muscle groups," she said.

But Adonis and Olivia got their introduction to rowing on the water as part of introductory rowing camps hosted by the Edmonton Rowing Club.

World Indoor Championships

Jennifer first learned that the Indoor World Championships would be in Canada for the first time during a training session with a friend and former national rowing team member earlier this winter, saying it was a bit of a coup as the championships have always been held in Europe.

She mentioned the opportunity to Adonis, who agreed it would be a once-in-a-lifetime chance and wanted to register. And as Adonis was signing up, Jennifer decided to take the plunge as well.

As for the experience, the world championships were at the Paramount Fine Foods Centre, a multi-sport and entertainment complex in Mississauga near Toronto's Pearson International Airport. The competition was in the complex's ice arena, in which the ice surface had been covered for the occasion. 

Jennifer noted that the organizers had set up about 40 rowing machines on the arena floor, and depending on the race, all the machines were in use. Competitors could also log in virtually.

And although she said there was a large contingent of athletes from all over the world (Great Britain, Germany, Denmark, Mexico and the U.S. were especially well represented as indoor rowing isn't a well-known sport in Canada), outside the competitors and their entourages there wasn't much of an audience.

Adonis and Jennifer started training for the world championships in October. However, they said it did not really differ from their usual training regiment.

Adonis noted he trains all year round, with the summer months devoted to on the water training with five weekly two-hour sessions, three of which are in the afternoon and two are early morning sessions starting at 5 a.m.

In the winter, Adonis trains three times a week, again with the Edmonton Rowing Club.

Going into the world championships, Jennifer and Adonis felt ready.

"I especially felt good going into the 500-metres," he said. "I wasn't nervous at all, I've gotten pretty used to it because of all the races I've done, and it may have been the quickest time I've ever pulled."

Unfortunately, Adonis said, although he still felt strong going into the second day of competition and the 2,000 metres, he did not perform as well as he wanted to.

"I had a race plan that would have given me my goal of a sub-seven-minute time. It just didn’t happen for me, but I'm still proud of what I accomplished.," he said.

As for his mother, competing in the world championships was a triumph.

Last year, Jennifer was diagnosed with lipedema, a condition that causes excess fat to accumulate, most often in the lower part of the body, but sometimes the upper body and arms can be affected.

That, along with some other health ailments, had an impact on her endurance to the point where she couldn't finish a race without stopping several times.

"So being able to finish 10th in the world in the 2,000 metres and seventh in the 500-metres is something I'm really proud of," she said.

Barry Kerton,


Barry Kerton

About the Author: Barry Kerton

Barry Kerton is the managing editor of the Barrhead Leader, joining the paper in 2014. He covers news, municipal politics and sports.
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