2024 World Rowing Indoor Championships, presented by Concept2, Prague, Czechia © Detlev Seyb /

In a small village called Buc on the outskirts of Paris, there is a sports hall which is home to a surprising number of indoor rowing champions – among them, two of the oldest competitors at the 2024 World Indoor Rowing Championships, presented by Concept2.

Husband and wife duo Jean-Pierre and Marie-Thérèse Ganachaud were both competing in the 500m sprint events on Saturday of the championships. Jean-Pierre is 84, and Marie-Thérèse 80, and they were in Prague with around 20 teammates from their club, AO Buc.

Marie-Thérèse, the chattier of the couple, explains that she and her husband have been rowing indoors now for about 20 years, having picked up the sport on retirement in their early 60s.

“At home in Buc I’ve got 29 medals, including today’s,” she says, after winning the lightweight women’s 80+ 500m.

2024 World Rowing Indoor Championships, presented by Concept2, Prague, Czechia © Detlev Seyb /

Her husband came away without a medal from Prague, but he has plenty at home too. “I came in 2020 and I was European champion. Since then I’ve suffered with spinal problems,” he says.

The Ganachauds go rowing every Monday and Thursday, but Jean-Pierre is keen to emphasise that erging is not their only activity.

“I also walk, cycle, we go to the sports hall to stay young, even at 84 years old,” he says.

Buc’s sports hall offers a variety of activities, including archery as well as indoor rowing. Marie-Thérèse says the offer of rowing is all down to the club president, Bernard Soulisse, who keeps pushing its members onwards.

“Honestly it only helps improve our morale, our bodies suffer less,” she says. “Sometimes I say no, no, I don’t want to, I don’t know how to. He says yes you can, row and it’ll be all right. It’s thanks to him we can do stuff, and he coaches us. Without him, we wouldn’t be here. He helps us.”

Soulisse lent club members, including the Ganachauds, ergs during the Covid-19 lockdowns to help them stay active.

“We had an erg at home. Bernard – always Bernard – he lent us an erg and kept us rowing. We couldn’t go out, which was a shame, but we continued to talk and to row. In Buc we have lots of ponds and forests, so we walked too,” Marie-Thérèse adds.

Now they are back to normal life, the Ganachauds and their teammates can travel again to competitions.

We’ve been everywhere. We’ve been to Amsterdam, we’ve been to Israel, we’ve been to Rome, we’ve been here twice, I’ve lost track. We’ve been to all the championships. We’re retired, we’ve got a bit of money, so we can eat in restaurants and travel,” Jean-Pierre says, cheerfully.

When asked how long they will keep competing, the Ganachauds do not want to commit – but as long as they can, they will definitely keep going to the sports hall twice a week.

“Today is today. Tomorrow is tomorrow. Monday, we’ll see. Every day is its own for us,” says Marie-Thérèse.

“I hope that if we stay well we’ll continue. Whatever happens, we’ll carry on in Buc. We do 5000m in the hall, we eat choucroute, the same as everyone.

“It’s brought us nothing but happiness with friends,” she concludes, as the couple head off to find that 29th medal for the collection.