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Para-Rowers overcome adversity to secure Tokyo berth

Four-time World Champion Kathryn Ross will join a handful of athletes worldwide who have raced at every Paralympic Games regatta after she was one of eight Para-rowers welcomed onto the Australian Team for Tokyo 2020 by Paralympics Australia on Monday.

Ross won a silver medal in the PR2 Mixed Double Sculls at Beijing 2008, the first Games in which Para-rowing was included in the program. She will team up in Tokyo with new rowing partner Simon Albury after the pair qualified their boat at the final Paralympic qualification regatta in Italy last month.

Men’s PR1 single sculler Erik Horrie, who with two silver medals is Australia’s most successful Paralympic rower to date, was also named, along with Nikki Ayers, Tom Birtwhistle, Alexandra Viney, James Talbot and coxswain Renae Domaschenz, who will race in the PR3 Mixed Coxed Four.

“It’s definitely nice to be able to say that we’re in the Team now, to be able to celebrate a bit before we actually head off,” Ross said. “You’re in the Team, you know who your teammates are, and that’s the exciting part – working together towards the Games.

“We have some great athletes among us who have plenty of experience. We’re lucky to have that depth, along with some debutants as well, so it’s a real mix that we’re very fortunate to have.”

On becoming a four-time Paralympian, Ross said: “I’m one of only four or five rowers in the world who’s been to every Games since rowing was introduced in 2008. It’s very, very exciting. Reaching that personal goal and having that achievement is really nice.”

The achievement is amplified by the challenges the squad faced, with border closures and lockdowns heavily impacting the group.

“It’s been extremely hard for us,” Ross said. “We’re a camps-based Team, but we have people all across the country. For example, I’m in Canberra but my rowing partner’s in South Australia. Some are in Victoria, some in NSW, our doubles coach is in Queensland… We’ve really struggled to come together as a Team and train for Tokyo, but we’ve done our best.”

Australian Team Chef de Mission Kate McLoughlin said she was proud of the way the Para-rowers had stuck to the task.

“There’s nothing normal about the journey our Para-rowing Team has been on to reach this point,” McLoughlin said.

“It’s been stop-start, there have been disappointments and major hurdles along the way. Yet, they’ve done it and this squad now has the opportunity to take on the rest of the world in Tokyo. It’s a great display of character and I congratulate each member of the Team on their selection.”

Paralympics Australia Chief Executive Lynne Anderson said: “A Paralympic gold medal has proved elusive so far for Australia in Para-rowing, but I’m confident this group has the talent and the strength of character required to achieve great things when they race at Sea Forest Waterway in Tokyo in about six weeks’ time.

“I’d like to thank Rowing Australia, including Para-rowing Head Coach Gordon Marcks and his staff for their dedication in supporting these wonderful athletes to achieve their goals.”

Rowing Australia Chief Executive Ian Robson said: “The group has overcome many challenges, including a postponed Games, disrupted training and also a return trip overseas to qualify a boat late. We’re proud of how they’ve handled themselves in these unprecedented times and we know they will do us all proud on the world stage in Tokyo.

“On behalf of everyone at Rowing Australia and the wider community, I would like to congratulate the athletes on their selection, but also acknowledge the team behind the team – the coaches, support staff, family and friends who have been with them every step of the way to these Paralympic Games. Our athletes and Rowing Australia could not do it without your support.”

2020 Australian Paralympic Rowing Team

Name Boat Games Club State
Erik Horrie PR1 M1x 3rd (2012 and 2016) Sydney Rowing Club NSW
Kathryn Ross PR2 Mix2x 4th (2008, 2012, 2016) ANU Boat Club ACT
Simon Albury PR2 Mix2x Debut Torrens Rowing Club SA
Nikki Ayers PR3 Mix4+ Debut Capital Lakes Rowing Club ACT
Alexandra Viney PR3 Mix4+ Debut Mercantile Rowing Club VIC
James Talbot PR3 Mix4+ Debut Sydney University Boat Club NSW
Thomas Birtwhistle PR3 Mix4+ Debut UTS Haberfield Rowing Club NSW
Renae Domaschenz PR3 Mix4+ (Coxswain) Debut ANU Boat Club

ACT

 

Staff
Gordon Marcks – Head Coach

Jason Baker – PR1 M1x Coach

Lincoln Handley – PR2 Mix2x Coach

Lizzi Chapman – PR3 Mix4+ Coach

Sarah Hammond – Physiotherapist