2019 Top Moments - No. 9: Birgit Skarstein extends winning streak

Norwegian makes successful switch from cross-country skiing to rowing 23 Dec 2019
Woman in rowing boat waves at spectators
Birgit Skarstein won her third consecutive world title in Linz-Ottensheim, Austria
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Birgit Skarstein continues to ink her name into Para rowing history with another impressive year that culminated to her World Championship title.

The Norwegian blew away the women’s single sculls (PR1 W1x) field on her way to gold in August’s race, and her accomplishment is No. 9 on the International Paralympic Committee’s (IPC) Top 10 Moments of 2019.

The 30-year-old captured her third straight world title. She has not lost a single race since the Rio 2016 Paralympics, where she just missed out on the podium. With the series of success, Skarstein will be a firm favourite for Tokyo 2020.

Her time of 10:18.830 over 2,000m was six seconds off the World Best Time she set in 2018, and she finished five seconds ahead of French runner-up Nathalie Benoit. 

“This year was a tough one! Preparations for the 2019 Worlds were quite challenging, so I was really happy to make it to the finish line first,” Skarstein had said on www.worldrowing.org. “Also, because the Worlds were Olympic and Paralympic qualification too, the whole Championships was really exciting with my teammates also picking up tickets for Tokyo. There were a lot of emotions out there.”

This year saw 12 of the 22 Paralympic summer sports hold their World Championships, making the pressure high ahead of Tokyo 2020. This would be another opportunity for Skarstein to end her Paralympic medal draught after missing out on a podium place at Rio 2016, and PyeongChang 2018 and Sochi 2014 Winter Games.

A dual-sport athlete, Skarstein’s success carried over from the February’s World Para Nordic Skiing Championships, where she celebrated a pair of bronze medals. 
“I think the (rowing) World Championships only give an answer about who was in a leading position that day,” Skarstein continued.
“The title tells me that I’ve done a lot of good work until now and that I have a solid base to build on, but I don’t think it gives me any more pressure because I still regard myself as a challenger. It’s all about doing the good work every day until Tokyo.”