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Former teacher at Grantham school happy with place at British Indoor Rowing Championships

A former Grantham teacher has competed in the British Rowing Indoor Championships from his own home.

Chris Cumbers, aged 72, placed fifth in the lightweight Men 70-74 category of the 2,000m indoor rowing competition, which took place over the weekend of December 5 and 6.

Normally the competitors would gather at the Olympic Velodrome in London and race side-by-side.

Chris Cumbers on his rowing machine (43547850)
Chris Cumbers on his rowing machine (43547850)

However, this is no normal year, so due to Covid restrictions, the event was held online.

Chris, like his competitors, took part on their own rowing machines or those at their local rowing clubhouse.

Each was connected to the Home Race System and as the race proceeded the monitor showed who was in the lead, while showing competitors who were ahead of them and behind.

Chris came fifth in his category behind two Frenchmen and two Britons.

In February he finished a close second in the English National Indoor Rowing Championships at the Manchester Velodrome .

Chris said: “I knew the names of the other competitors before we started and I had a little look to see who they were and what sort of times they’d done, so I knew that I was going to be in the middle of the pack.

“I was pleased with how it went. That was the right place for me to be. I couldn’t have caught the other guys, they were too fast.”

Chris, a former chemistry master at King’s School, took up indoor rowing in his late forties in 1998, but various setbacks meant that the event in February was his first competitive outing for 15 years.

Standing at 6ft4in, he is one of the tallest competitors in the lightweight category. Chris said: “I haven’t met another lightweight as tall as me I have to say, and that’s my advantage.”

He also praised the organisation required for the event to take place virtually.

He said: “Like everything else, the indoor rowing world has come to a grinding halt with Covid, so this is the only event this winter apart from the World Championships. They’ve gone online as well, but I won’t be doing that one.

“I think it was a great success actually, credit to them for going ahead with it. Really as an experiment, I think it was definitely a success.

“I didn’t think there would be anything this season, so it was good.”

Despite his successes in the indoor event, Chris has no desire to apply his skills out on the water. He said: “I’ve been asked this question before but I’ve got no real desire to go out on freezing water with the risk of drowning!

“It just seems that the rowing machine is a good fit for me as an athlete.”

Chris is grateful to have his own rowing machine which is set up in his garden outbuilding and has allowed him to stay active over lockdown.

He added: “This is the beauty of having a rowing machine. Some people need to go to their local gym, so obviously when that closes then they’re stuck, but for me, I just carried on training.”

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