Highlight 3# of the decade: Great Britain finishes top of the rowing medal table at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games
Britain’s Paralympic rowers brought home medals in every boat class at Rio, including three sensational golds, topping the table at the 2016 Games
GB’s Para-rowers produced standout performances at the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games and are third in our highlights of the decade.
In the words of Tom Dyson, GB Rowing Team Chief Coach – Paralympic Programme: “Rio 2016 was the first time any nation had won Paralympic medals in all four boat classes. It was an incredible day for all of the team to be a part of and to re-establish Great Britain as the leading Paralympic rowing nation.”
Read on to see how Rowing & Regatta magazine covered GB’s incredible achievements at the time, as reported by Alan Oldham.
The Union Flag fluttered high above the Paralympic podium at the Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas rowing venue on the second weekend in September as British rowers demonstrated their dominance following a strong Olympic showing on these waters only weeks before.
Rio 2016 was the first time any nation had won Paralympic medals in all four boat classes
ParalympicsGB mounted the podium four times in four races, claiming three golds (LTAMix4+, TAMix2x, ASW1x) and a bronze (ASM1x) in a near sweep of the entire Paralympic Regatta.
“It would be an understatement to say the racing went to plan,” GBRT’s Paralympic Programme Lead Coach, Tom Dyson, told Rowing & Regatta magazine.
“The team have had such a good year’s training that we thought something like this was possible, but it is a testament to all of the rowers that they showed their very best on the day.”
Rio is Britain’s most successful Paralympics in rowing since the sport’s first inclusion in Beijing 2008, where ParalympicsGB took two golds and a bronze. The team claimed one solitary medal (gold) at the London 2012 Games.
“A lot of things have developed since London,” said Dyson, who has coached ParalympicsGB at all three Paralympic Regattas.
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“We had a number of rowers retire and we’ve managed to recruit some excellent talent. On top of that, we’ve had another four years’ learning and refining.”
As Paralympic Best Times fell throughout the regatta, the scope of the accomplishment became evident. “The speeds required to be competitive now seemed a pipe dream four years ago,” Dyson said, pointing to Tom Aggar as an exemplar of the drive needed to survive in this new reality.
“[Tom] has been with the team since 2007 and up to 2012 he drove the standard to a new level. After the disappointment of London, for him to continue improving and put himself back on the medal rostrum is a credit to all of his hard work and commitment.”
The speeds required to be competitive now seemed a pipe dream four years ago
The LTAMix4+ has been firmly under British control since 2011 when Pamela Relph joined the crew. The event saw ParalympicsGB’s only podium performance in rowing at the 2012 Paralympics; four years later Relph remains undefeated.
At Rio, the US crew blasted out in the A final, attempting to draw the defending Brits and a strong Canadian crew beyond their comfort zones. With Canada falling back early, the British crew of Grace Clough, Daniel Brown, Pamela Relph, James Fox and Oliver James pushed through the US lead, advancing their bow with every stroke to capture a second Paralympic gold in this event. The US held off a resurgent Canada, finishing in silver and bronze position respectively.
Afterwards Relph said: “I am so immensely proud of the entire team for what we achieved on the Lagoa. London was an incredible moment in my life, but I can safely say that winning my second gold here in Rio and becoming the only double Paralympic rowing champion tops it!”
It is official, we are the best rowing team in the world at both the Olympics and Paralympics
Grace Clough, who only took up the sport three years ago, added: “What a fantastic medals. Such a privilege to be part of such a phenomenal team and we would not be where we are without all that the Lottery funding provides.”
Setting a World and Paralympic Best Time in the heat, the British duo of Lauren Rowles and Laurence Whiteley bested defending Paralympic champions China and three-time reigning world champions Gavin Bellis and Kathryn Ross of Australia.
Rowles and Whiteley paced brilliantly, holding on to their early lead to claim gold, Britain’s first medal in this event. French scullers Perle Bouge and Stephane Tardieu won their heat, but could not match the Brits or Chinese.
“It is official, we are the best rowing team in the world at both the Olympics and Paralympics,” said 18-year-old Rowles.
“The sensation of becoming Paralympic champion cannot be described by words, but we are hungry to continue this success!”
In a thrilling turnaround, Great Britain’s Rachel Morris powered from fourth to first in the final 500m to claim gold in the ASW1x. This is Morris’s second major international win following a dominant performance at World Cup III in Poland where she set a World Best Time.
All boats medalling is the result of four-plus years of incredible work from us as athletes, but also from a team of top coaches and support staff
By 250m three boats had separated themselves, but Morris was falling back. China’s Lili Wang and defending world champion Moran Samuel of Israel were bow-to-bow with Norway’s Birgit Skarstein, 2014 world champion, close behind.
Wang continued extending her lead and may have begun to think the race was hers. But Morris’s devastating final attack left all in her wake and set a Paralympic Best Time of 5:13.69.
“The feeling of being top of the podium is just sensational and I’m now going to enjoy the squad’s success,” she said, before adding: “All boats medalling and being part of the most successful teams in both Para and Olympic Regattas is the result of four-plus years of incredible work and dedication from us as athletes, but also from a team of top coaches and support staff.”
There was tremendous experience on the water as the ASM1x final got underway.
Australia’s Erik Horrie, the triple world champion, and Ukrainian newcomer Roman Polianskyi held the favoured central positions after winning their heats.
What a regatta!” said Aggar.“The feeling of making the podium once again at a Games was indescribable
Beside them sat the two previous Paralympic champions: Cheng Huang of China, who emerged from obscurity to take gold in London 2012, and Great Britain’s Tom Aggar, the first ASM1x champion when rowing made its debut at the Beijing 2008 Paralympics. Aggar narrowly missed bronze in 2012.
Polianskyi had the lead by 250m, pushing away from Horrie through each quarter to take gold in 4:39.56, a Paralympic Best Time. Horrie finished with silver for the second Games in a row.
Aggar similarly cruised to bronze despite a strong push from Blake Haxton of the USA in the final 250m that positioned the American sculler ahead of Huang. Brazil’s Rene Pereira crossed in sixth place amidst home crowd cheers.
“What a regatta!” said Aggar.“The feeling of making the podium once again at a Games was indescribable. It has been an amazing journey both training and preparing with our most successful team yet.”