Behind the scenes with an adaptive World Champion

On Sunday 17th February, Tees  RC‘s Caroline MacDonald achieved a stunning feat at the World Indoor Rowing Championships in Boston, USA.

Five weeks prior to the event, Arms and Shoulders adaptive rower Caroline was planning her assault on the one indoor rowing title she was desperate to clinch – the World Championship in Boston.

As the existing world record holder in her category, Caroline and her coach Greg Beswick were hopeful of a victory and possibly even a new record. With Greg at her side, Caroline had already conquered the British and European Indoor Rowing Championships, as well as taking the British Rowing Championships title in the women’s AS single sculls.

Training was intense in the run up to the event – Caroline working hard to keep her 1k time dropping and her splits improving to the extent that she unofficially outpaced her existing world record at Tees RC in a pre-race workout.

As race day arrived, Caroline prepared for a 9.15am (2.15pm UK time) start – she entered the competition in plenty of time, and quickly took in the atmosphere. Her category of female AS athletes featured the best of the best, and she knew that this would be a very tough day at the office.

As Caroline carried out her normal routines involving stretching and build-up sessions on the indoor rowing machine, she knew how and when to attack the piece. “Just stick to the plan and your splits and it will happen,” was firmly embedded in her mind, alongside numerous good luck texts and emails from friends and colleagues at Tees RC. However, as the clock set to zero, it was time to enter that bubble and concentrate.

The arena screen showed ‘Attention… Ready to row… Go!’ Getting straight into her race pace and plan, Caroline stared hard at her LED screen and held a solid routine. By 500m (halfway into the race) she was starting to forge ahead of her competitors and all the preparation and race experience began to tell. She rapidly left the chasing pack.

With only 170m to go, the competition commentator suddenly highlighted indoor rowing machine number 73 – “Caroline MacDonald from Tees Rowing Club is on a record time!” With the arena sensing a record, they roared her on.

Splits of 2.17, 2.16, 2.16 flashed on the screen as, with 50m to go, the commentator again proclaimed “this is world record pace for MacDonald!”

As the little yellow boat on the screen crossed the finish line, a huge cheer echoed around the arena and a time of 04:32.2 was clearly recorded. Caroline punched the air, safe in the knowledge that she had not only won the event, but had smashed her own world record by a massive four seconds.

Meanwhile, back in the UK, Caroline’s supporters – including coach Greg – celebrated as a live link up to the event showed their local Tees athlete being crowned World Champion and world record holder.

In an interview mere minutes after finishing her piece, Caroline was asked how she did it. She replied, simply, “I just stuck to the plan.”

After thanking her coach, her supporters and her club, Caroline returned to Tees RC seven days later – training and celebrating with her teammates. In the words of her coach, Greg: “what an athlete, and what an effort!”

Do you live in the North East? Fancy having a go at adaptive rowing? Contact Caroline’s coach Greg on

For more information about adaptive rowing, visit