Colors of the world provide international fanfare at NBP

Members of Team USA pose with the colors after the opening ceremony. Photo by Nick Gandy

More than 50 participating countries on parade at 2019 World Rowing Under 23 Championships • By Nick Gandy

As the dark clouds of the afternoon drifted further east, the sky turned blue and colors of the 52 countries represented at the 2019 World Rowing Under 23 Championships began filling up the spectator grandstand seats at Nathan Benderson Park for the Opening Ceremony.

Among the first to arrive were members of the Czech Republic team, in white, red and blue.  The USA team had a strong showing with men and women in blue polo shirts and khaki pants, with a crest of oars crossed over a red, white and blue striped shield.  Members of the Japanese team wore black polo shirts with the rising sun of the national flag.  The green and gold clad Australian team took a seat next to the Swiss team in white polo shirts with the recognizable red cross.

However, it was the German team that took up a whole section of the grandstand with their white shirts with a local flair added to the back.  Spread across the top half of their team uniform was Sarasota U23 WM 2019 complete with a palm tree in the background.

The German team had special shirts with “Sarasota U23” on the backs, complete with palm trees. Photo by Nick Gandy

The festivities began with a local drumline from Lincoln Memorial Academy Middle School.  While the band normally features nine drummers, the four members available during the summer break were able to make an awesome noise to welcome the crowd.

Prior to their performance, band director John Walker III introduced the four members of the drumline to the variety of international athletes, and their accents, milling about the area in front of the five-story finish line tower.

“This group of drummers features the quarterback of the football team and the point guard of the basketball team,” Walker said.  “All students at the school must do multiple activities outside of their classwork to get a full experience.”

Following the awesome noise of the drumline, master of ceremonies Ray Collins, who anchors WWSB’s “Good Morning Suncoast,” read off the list of 52 countries, from Algeria to the United States, as team representatives marched with their nation’s flag past the stage and toward the Nathan Benderson Park finish line — a spot all of the 750 total athletes hope to cross first in the 22 boat category races being contested Wednesday through Sunday.

The Hungarian team hangs out after the opening ceremony. Photo by Nick Gandy

Following local welcomes from SANCA President Stephen V. Rodriguez and Sarasota County Commissioner Nancy Detert, USRowing President Patrick McNerney asked a couple of favors from the contingent of athletes and coaches seated in the packed grandstand.

“At some point during the competition, take a moment to give a shout out to the race officials who are here to guarantee your safety,” McNerney said.  “Then be sure to take a moment to thank all of the volunteers who come back time after time to the international events here at Nathan Benderson Park for the athletes.”

At 6:20 p.m., FISA President Matt Smith officially declared the 2019 World Rowing Under 23 Championships at Nathan Benderson Park open and the FISA flag and U.S. stars and stripes were raised on flagpoles while The Star Spangled Banner was played.

To bring the Opening Ceremony to a close, the Sarasota Ski-A-Rees entertained the crowd with a variety of water skiing tricks and poses closing with a nine-person pyramid, with five skiiers across the bottom, three on a middle row and one at the top.

The 2019 World Rowing Under 23 Championships begin Wednesday morning at Nathan Benderson Park, a 600-acre Sarasota County Park and continue through Sunday.  This event is the third international rowing event held at the park since 2017 and it is the first time the World Rowing Under 23 Championships have been held in the United States and outside of Europe.  The last four championships have been held in Italy, Bulgaria, the Netherlands and Poland.

Races begin at 9 a.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday, 9:30 a.m. Friday and 8:30 a.m. Sunday. For those deciding to attend, be sure to come early as the races finish at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, the latest of the five-day event.  All other days will conclude between 11:45 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.

For more information and a complete schedule of events, please visit nathanbendersonpark.org or worldunder23.com.