Para-rowing plays a big part in the Sydney International Rowing Regatta each year. In 2017, this part has grown to 10 separate events which include Paralympians, international athletes, and those competing as para-rowers for the first time.
The events cover a number of different classifications. The Legs, Trunk and Arms (LTA) category has seen the highest number of entries to date this year, with 14 competitors.
Amongst the newcomers to the sport is Curtis McGrath, who has decided to try his hand at rowing after winning gold for para-canoeing at the 2016 Rio Paralympics. “Once I achieved what I wanted to achieve at Rio I was looking for something else, I’ve always loved being on the water and being in a boat… so rowing was an obvious choice,” Said McGrath.
After taking up rowing only a few months ago, McGrath competed today in the Trunk and Arms (TA) Men’s Single Scull and in his first ever race, he was crowned the National champion. “It’s a nice exciting start, there’s a lot to learn from that one race, I can go way with a lot of improvement points,” said McGrath.
Rowing is a sport of sheer determination and grit, but para-rowing brings that to a whole new level. For two-time Paralympic silver medallist Eric Horrie, his competition is limited, as he is the only para-rower at Nationals to participate in his boat class (Arms Shoulders Single Scull).
“It is hard out there by yourself… but it’s good to be able to come down the course for the Australian titles and to still have that race available for my class,” said Horrie.
To widen his competition, Horrie also raced up a class today, competing in his second race for the day – the TA Men’s Single Scull final. Although placing second, he was proud of his efforts and excited to have some new competition around. “Up against another category, I’m over the moon with second place… It’s an honour to be able to race against Curtis, it’s great to see him having a go at a great sport like rowing,” added Horrie.
SIRR is the first national para-rowing event many of the athletes have competed in since the Rio Paralympics in 2016, so there is much excitement surrounding the start of their competitive season.
“It’s very hard to just train, train, train so it’s great to be here with everybody and doing some competition,” said Paralympic silver medallist Kathryn Ross, who won the national title today in the TA Women’s Single Scull.
With international competitors entering to race, the regatta gives rowers the chance to compete on a playing field which is otherwise difficult to access. For Vanuatu athlete George Langa, coming to SIRR allowed him to be classified as a para-athlete by FISA standards, and gave the opportunity to race against competitors in his class from Australia and Hong Kong.
Gordon Marcks, who is the Rowing Australia Head Coach for Para-rowing, is excited to see what the future holds in the sport, and is determined to help it grow. “We are continuing to explore our opportunities with expanding the competition in para-rowing, it’s exciting to watch the sport grow… there’s a lot of potential around and we’re looking forward to developing that through our #Train4Tokyo camps,” Marcks said.