Para-rowing preview: ‘I was never planning to come back and I was looking to get rowing again for fitness’
Andy Houghton returns to international rowing for the first time since 2013, but admits he did not consider competing again when he got back into the sport
It’s been four years since Andy Houghton last raced in anger in a full international regatta, but the 36-year-old is back and looking to rediscover the form that led him to four World Cup podiums from 2009-13.
Houghton admits that when he first got back on the ergo at the start of 2017 he wasn’t looking to get back into competitive racing, but a persuasive conversation with Para-rowing Lead Coach Tom Dyson changed all that.
And now the Newbury athlete is back in the boat and competing in the newly named PR1 single scull event at the World Rowing Championships in Sarasota-Bradenton, Florida.
“I was never planning to come back and I was just looking to get rowing again for fitness,” said Houghton. ‘
“But I spoke to Tom and he mentioned coming to trials, which I did and produced a fairly good ergo and suddenly I was back in a boat. It’s all happened in this calendar year and now I’m here at the Worlds which is pretty surreal.
“I find rowing a hell of a challenge and that’s what I like about it. The initial draw was the chance to come to the World Championships so we’ll see how it goes and what happens over the next year or so but everyone has Tokyo in the back of their minds. That would be the pinnacle for me if I could make it there.”
And with Tokyo 2020 the long-term goal of all the rowers, the World Championships represents the first major regatta of the Olympiad to test themselves against the world’s best. For the Paralympic crews, Florida will be a first Worlds racing over 2,000m and Houghton is looking forward to testing himself in the new distance against a fresh field, four years on from his last World Cup.
“I’m looking forward to getting started out here, it’s what we’re here for after all and it will be good to see what the opposition are doing,” added Houghton. “We haven’t really seen them over 2,000m yet so it certainly be interesting.
“Being my first World Championships, obviously a medal would be fantastic but getting to that A final is the first goal.
“Looking at the quality of the field the event has moved on so much since my first time in the sport so it is going to be a challenge just to make that A final. Once I’m in that final anything can happen.”
The 2017 World Rowing Championships run from 24 September – 1 October in Sarasota-Bradenton, Florida. You can follow all of the action on British Rowing’s Twitter, Facebook and Instagram channels, as well as watching live finals on the BBC on Saturday, 30 September and Sunday, 1 October.