An analysis of junior rower performance and how it is affected by rower's features

(1) East Chapel Hill High School, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, (2) North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina
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High-school student participation in rowing has increased over the last two decades. Due to the physical intensity of rowing, this sport may be expected to be male dominant while the female lightweight category may be expected to be non-competitive. Over the years, junior rowers may have become faster, and they may be expected to demonstrate their largest improvement by age 16. The purpose of this study was to test these expectations with hypothesis-driven experiments while presenting a glimpse into the world of high-school rowing by analyzing World Indoor Rowing Championship data. This dataset was obtained from ergometer machines used for rowing on land. The analysis showed that the participation of junior women has been exceeding the participation of junior men in the heavyweight class. We found that the key feature determining the performance of a rower is first sex and then weight class, but it is possible for a female rower to be faster than a male rower. Rowing has become more competitive in all categories except male heavyweight. We tested whether a junior rower achieves the largest ergometer time improvement by age 16 and accepted this hypothesis except for the female lightweight rowers. Additionally, for each category, we built the 2000-meter ergometer time distribution, which junior rowers can use to assess current performance and understand what they should achieve for top placement. Finally, we developed models predicting future ergometer times based on current performance, sex, weight class, and target percentile rank to guide junior rowers in their journey.

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