Paralympic Rowing is a supreme test of strength and stamina over a new 2,000-metre distance.
Paralympic rowers complete on a six-lane, straight-line course divided by marker buoys. The race is won when the bow of the leading boat crosses the finish line. Rowing made its Paralympic debut in 2008 in Beijing, with events contested over 1,000 metres. In 2017, the distance was extended to 2,000 metres, meaning that for Tokyo 2020, the Paralympic race distance will be identical to the Olympic distance.
There are three types of events: single sculls (one rower), double sculls (two rowers) and coxed four (four rowers plus coxswain). The different events are linked to three different Sport Classes, for which eligibility is determined according to degree of physical impairment. The rules for Paralympic Rowing are almost the same as those applied to the Olympic equivalent, except those pertaining to the boats used for single sculls and double sculls which cater to rowers with lower-leg impairment. The seats in these boats are fixed to help the rowers use their arms and torso efficiently and the rowers may use strapping to support themselves in the boat.
The names of the Sport Classes were changed in 2017 to bring them into line with other para sport naming conventions. The Sport Classes are the following:
|PR1 (formerly AS)||For athletes who have apply force predominantly using their arms and/or shoulders but with minimal or no trunk function. These athletes will likely also have poor sitting balance and so require strapping around their mid-section to provide support. .||Single sculls (men/women)|
|PR2 (formerly TA)||For rowers who have functional use of their trunk, arms and shoulders but are not able to use the sliding seat to propel the boat because of significantly weakened function or mobility of the lower limbs.||Double sculls (mixed)|
|PR3 (formerly LTA)||For rowers who have functional use of their legs, trunk, arms and shoulders and can utilise the sliding seat. This Sport Class includes athletes with visual impairment, and there may be up to two rowers with a visual impairment in the boat)||Coxed four (mixed)|
International Federation: World Rowing Federation (FISA)
- PR1M1x (Men)
- PR1W1x (Women)
- PR2Mix2x (Mixed)
- PR3Mix4+ (Mixed)
Pulling with perfect timing
The boats used for the PR1 singles and PR2 doubles are a regulated design, known as the FISA Standard Para Single and FISA Standard Para Double. For the single sculls, it is mandatory that the boats are equipped with flotation buoys or pontoons on both sides to help maintain balance. The seat is fixed and has a back support and strap for the rower. The rower uses two oars, one in each hand.
The seat for the rower is also fixed for double sculls, but there is no back support so athletes can move their torso while rowing. As both rowers have oars in each hand, they need to row together in perfect unison.
In the coxed four event, a team of five work together, with the coxswain leading the way.. A crew may comprise rowers with different types of impairments so they must work out how to achieve exactly the same timing and stroke speed. The coxswain, who can be able-bodied, plays an important role, steering the boat and looking out for the tactics of rival boats while also giving instructions to his or her crew in order to be ready for the final spurt to the line.
An extended challenge for the world's best
The move to a 2,000m distance, bringing parity with Olympic Rowing, will play out on the Paralympic stage for the first time at Tokyo 2020. to the longer duration of the race will not only mean a greater physical challenge for the athletes, , but will also require different tactical approaches.
Qualification for Tokyo 2020 will be determined by placings achieved in a number of World Rowing qualification events. The first qualification places will go to countries achieving the top rankings at the 2019 World Rowing Championships . Further qualification places in the single sculls will go to crews winning their respective Paralympic Continental Regattas, as well as the top-ranked crews at the Final Paralympic Qualification Regatta in the year of the Games.
Great Britain is particularly strong in para rowing, having won three gold medals and one bronze in the Rio 2016 Paralympic regatta. France, USA and Canada are leading rivals, while China has proved to be the strongest team in Asia to date.
Rachel Morris (Great Britain) won gold in the women's single sculls at Rio 2016. Rio was Morris's third Paralympic Games but her first in a boat. Competing in Cycling, she won the time trial gold at the Beijing 2008 Paralympics and bronze in the women's road race in London in 2012. Morris wanted a new challenge so she switched to rowing in 2013, becoming another example of an athlete excelling in more than one sport.
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