Rowing set to make Paralympic history

Rowing is set to make its own piece of history tomorrow when the sport makes its debut on the Paralympic Games stage.

FISA’s (World Rowing Federation’s) Executive Director Matt Smith, on the eve of the inaugural Paralympic regatta at Shunyi Lake, paid tribute to the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and rowing’s National Federations for “their fantastic efforts to make it possible for rowing to join the Paralympic Movement which FISA is very proud to be part of”.

Britain will be represented in all four boat classes, after qualifying through last year’s World Championships in Munich.  ParalympicsGB will therefore field the maximum of nine athletes who will race in tomorrow’s opening heats of the men’s and women’s single scull, the mixed double scull and the mixed adaptive coxed four. Heat winners will move direct to A finals on Thursday and other crews face repechages, or “second chance” races on Wednesday.

The squad includes current world champion Tom Aggar in the men’s arms only single scull and former world champion, Helene Raynsford, in the women’s arms only single scull.

Twenty-four year-old former rugby player Aggar, made an instant impact on his international debut at the 2007 World Rowing Championships winning gold and setting a world record in the process. Meanwhile, Raynsford made history by becoming the first ever world champion in the women’s arms only event at the 2006 world championships held at Eton, although has since had to deal with injuries and illness.

James Morgan has joined the leg, trunk and arms mixed coxed four since GB won a silver  medal in this event at the 2007 World Championships, having previously won three world golds.  He has been selected for Beijing alongside 25 year-old Naomi Riches,  who is the most experienced member of the crew, having been part of the squad for the last four  consecutive world championships. The crew also includes Farnborough’s Vicki Hansford, Kent’s  Alastair Mckean with able-bodied cox Alan Sherman completing the crew.

Swansea student James Roberts and Northern Ireland’s Karen Cromie take the final places,  competing in the trunk and arms mixed double scull.

GB Rowing’s Performance Director, David Tanner, said today: ‘ Once again our Chinese hosts have organised this first Paralympic regatta superbly well following the outstanding success of the Olympic Regatta just over 2 weeks ago.  We are excited to be included in the Paralympic Games and our crews are well prepared and looking forward to the start of racing tomorrow.’

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SCHEDULE AND BACKGROUND TO RACING
(Beijing is 7 hours ahead of the UK. Times given are
local Beijing times).

First to race at 1500 Beijing time will be Helene Raynsford in the arms-only women’s single scull where she will face 2007 World Championship silver and bronze medalists from Belarus and Poland but she misses the Brazilian reigning World Champion.

Tom Aggar, GB’s 2007 World Champion in the arms-only men’s single scull, follows at 1600, in almost a rematch of the thrilling 2007 World final with all three medalists drawn in the second heat.  Aggar will expect a major challenge from Australia and Israel who pushed him hard for gold last year in Munich.

The trunk and arms double scull race at 1640. GB were eighth in the World last year and have drawn the 2007 gold medallists from Brazil and bronze medallists from Poland. GB have raced Poland three times this season, always with tight finishes with the results 2-1 to GB.

GB’s mixed adaptive coxed four will race at 1700 in another tough draw.  While the German World Champions are in heat 2, the next four boats from the 2007 World final are in heat 1 and this promises to be a tight affair.  GB won silver in Munich, closely followed by Canada, Italy and the USA.

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CREWS LISTS
ADAPTIVE ROWING SQUAD
PARALYMPIC GAMES, BEIJING

Single scull

Helene Raynsford (Guildford RC/Frimley/29.12.79)

Coach:  Chad King

MEN

Single scull

Tom Aggar (Royal Docks/Barnet, London/24.5.84)

Coach: Chad King

MIXED

Mixed adaptive coxed four

Vicki Hansford (Guildford RC/Lewisham/31.10.79)/
Naomi Riches (Marlow RC/Harrow Weald/15.6.83)/
Alastair Mckean (Herne Bay ARC/Whitstable/14.4.79)/
James Morgan (Deal RC/Dover/Deal Walmer & Kingsdown)/
Alan Sherman (Thames Tradesmen/London/22.10.51) (cox)

Coach: Chad King

Double scull

Karen Cromie (Royal Docks BC/Ballinamallard, Co.Fermanagh/
24.9.79)/James Roberts (Swansea/11.5.86)

Coach:  Tom Dyson

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