3, 2, 1, GO ROW! Rowing at the Special Olympics

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Special Olympics athletes start their rowing raceAnd they’re off! For the 7th straight year we are rowing with the athletes of the Special Olympics Michigan Summer Games. We work a lot of different trainings and events through the year, but this one, and its winter counterpart, are among those we look forward to the most.

As it is for most people, indoor rowing for people with intellectual disabilities is one of the best fitness activities there is. In addition to rowing’s non-impact, total-body fitness benefits, Special Olympics athletes are often drawn to the sport’s rhythmic stroke and the Zen-like sound of flywheels in motion.

And then there’s the competition! Over the course of two days, hundreds of athletes row 500 meters (2-3 minutes) on a Concept2 rowing machine. The fastest times win a special UCanRow2 rowing medal.

Special Olympics athlete celebrates a great row

As far as we know Michigan is the only state that regularly offers demonstrations of indoor rowing at both its winter and summer games (If there are others please let us know!).

We’d like to see the sport grow to other states and countries’ Special Olympics, and maybe even be an official sport of the games one day.

Want to get a taste of what the indoor rowing competition is like? Check out our video from the Winter Games.

If any of this sounds appealing we strongly encourage you to volunteer for your local Special Olympics. The smiles, hugs and high fives are worth their weight in gold. Do you have a Special Olympics experience to share? Love it! Post it to the comments below and tell the world.  Can’t get enough of the photos?  Check out more in our photo album!

Special Olympics indoor rowing race winners


  1. Salmoli Chakraborty on October 31, 2019 at 7:40 am

    My daughter won a Gold Madel and a bronze Madel in Swimming in Special Olympic Summer Games 2019 at Abudhabi .
    She also participate in Inter School lndor Rowing Compitition in Kolkata .She is very much interested in Rowing .
    Haw can I train her in this game . Please help me .

    • UCanRow2 on October 31, 2019 at 9:17 pm

      Congratulations to your daughter, that’s so great that she won in swimming! Indoor rowing would be a great option for her to keep building her fitness. To help her learn to row, I would suggest contacting the Calcutta Rowing Club. They should have rowing machines and would be a great place for her to start to learn from people who are experienced on the rowing machine. Let us know how it goes!

  2. David Galbraith on May 6, 2021 at 4:57 pm

    Here in the South Island Of New Zealand we have had Special Olympic rowing happening for about 30 years
    The past 12 years approx the 3 Provinces that have rowing as an un official sport hold an annual indoor regatta
    it was last month 10 April 2021 we run it over 4 distances 2000 metres 1000 metres — 500 metres and a 250 metres race and very competitive – the last race for the faster people was dead heat 48.6 sec for 250 metres
    I’ll look out some photos

    • Sarah Fuhrmann on May 13, 2021 at 11:33 am

      This is so great to hear, well done! Would love to see some photos! There’s really nothing better than seeing the face of a Special Olympian who’s just won a race, or discovered they can do something they didn’t think they could. It’s SO rewarding.

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