By the time Paul Randall was nearing the last strokes of his race, the crowd behind him was large and loud.
It wasn’t that Randall was about to pull an incredibly fast time in his 2,000-meter indoor race at the 2014 World Indoor Rowing Championships, otherwise known as the C.R.A.S.H.-B Sprints. It was the number next to his name.
At 96 years old, Randall, of Elkhart, Ind., was the oldest person competing in the 33rd edition of the event and he was a crowd favorite. So, as Randall closed in on his last few strokes, all eyes in Boston University’s Agganis Arena where on him.
And while his time of 11:47.0 was probably among the slowest of the more than 2,100 athletes that came from around the world to race for one of the Hammer awards that is given to the champion in each age category, Randal was very much the star of the day.
“I’m tickled pink about this,” Randall said as he sat behind a table in the arena concourse greeting people and singing autographs on large postcards that read, “Be Like Paul” that were made especially for the occasion.
“This is a real victory,” he said. “I had my son cheering me on. He’s my son, my whole staff and my inspiration. Before the race I was nervous and scared and worried and half mad. But that doesn’t count. The last minute is what counts.”
Randall’s performance was just one of the many inspiring moments of a day that began at 9:00 a.m., and ran non-stop until 4:15 p.m., featured 30 events for able-bodied and adaptive athletes from 12 to 96 and included two new events, a four-minute race for kids 12 and 13 and a team event that had four people each racing for 1,000 meters.
“It actually went really smoothly,” said regatta commodore, Laura Macfarlane. “We had been working on our teamwork with our sponsor, Concept II, and they were fantastic all year and it really paid off. There were little fires here and there, but that is to be expected.”
Macfarlane said that regatta organizers were still imputing results and comparing them to past regattas, but she said that at least four world records were set, three by adaptive athletes and one by Tom Darling, USRowing’s para-rowing high performance director, who finished the 2,00-meter race in 6:14.70.