Rowers From Around The World Converge On Sarasota

Sep 29, 2017

The best rowers in the world are converging on Sarasota this week. And over the weekend, the best of the best will compete in the World Rowing Championships.

Some of the spectators came a very long way to watch the action.


Even and Katharina Solbakkem are easy to spot in the milling crowds at Nathan Benderson Park. They're sporting "Team Norway" shirts with the flag of their home country - a blue cross on a white and red background.  

They traveled nearly 5,000 miles to sweat in the Florida sun and cheer on the 15 Norwegian rowers - including their son.

So far, they're impressed with what they've seen.

"I think this is the best rowing place I've ever been in. And I've been in a lot of places worldwide. So this is very impressive," Even said.

As droplets of sweat rolled down his florid cheeks, Solbakkem said what impresses him the most is the park's large grandstand, the reception they've gotten - and one other very un-Norwegian commodity:

"The heat, of course. It's tough for a Norwegian, I think," he said with a laugh. "So we are getting sunburned."

Credit Steve Newborn / WUSF Public Media

He says rowing is a bigger sport in his home country than here - Norway has taken more Olympic medals in rowing than any other country. Team Norway has about 30 people who followed them to Sarasota.

Event spokesman Max Winitz said 10,000 people showed up for the opening ceremonies.

"We've heard great things from the rowers and the international community, the spectators that are here from other countries, putting this up with an Olympic-level event," he said.

And it's not just people from overseas who are show up.

"It's neat to see locals communicating with international people," Winitz said. "I've seen it with my own eyes - where are you from? Who are you rooting for? Do you know anybody in the race?"

He says don't expect to be able to get a seat for the finals.

"This weekend, the final Saturday and Sunday of competition, we are actually sold out," he said. "All of our seating options, with the exception of general admission, which is just your standing room only.

The event's closing ceremonies begin at noon Sunday.

Credit Steve Newborn / WUSF Public Media