Sport Week: Top moments in Para rowing

British rowers have dominated the headlines across the singles and mixed coxed four disciplines since the sport's Paralympic debut at Beijing 2008 05 May 2020
a group of five British Para rowers standing on the podium with their gold medals
Great Britain's mixed coxed four crew have nearly a decade of dominance
ⒸGetty Images
By Ros Dumlao | For the IPC

Para rowing is building off outstanding moments since its Paralympic debut at Beijing 2008. Here are five that will not be forgotten:

1. Sport’s first Paralympic champions

Para rowing took centre stage at the 2008 Paralympics as it made its Games debut. All eyes were eagerly keen on Great Britain’s reigning world champion Tom Aggar. He lived up to expectations, finishing almost four seconds ahead of runner-up Oleksandr Petrenko of Ukraine. Aggar’s gold medal also set him up for an unbeaten run that ended at the London 2012 Paralympics.


2. Italian surprise 

The Italian mixed coxed four crew had not reached the World Championship podium in the years leading up to Beijing 2008, and they missed the podium at the previous year’s World Championships. But at the Games, they hit the fastest qualifying time and went all out in the final, leaving their opponents in their ripples. The crew comprised of Paola Protopapa, Luca Agoletto, Daniele Signore, Graziana Saccocci and cox Alssandro Franzetti. They beat favourites in 2007, world champions Germany and runner-up Great Britain.


3. Emotional home gold    

That feat by the Italians could not carry over into the next Games at London 2012. Instead, the home crew of Pamela Relph, Naomi Riches, David Smith, James Roe and cox Lily Van den Broecke showed up. It was a makeover crew from Beijing 2008, with only Riches returning. 

Their German rivals set a new World Best Time of 3:15.91 in the heats and took the lead in the final. But the Brits reeled in the final hundred metres to overtake the Germans and win by two seconds. This saw the continuation and part of the ongoing dominance of the British, who also defended their crown in Rio 2016.


4. Where did he come from?

Ukraine’s Roman Polianskyi came into rowing late, and he peaked at the right time at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. He entered as an unknown, only taking up the sport two years prior. But in the men’s single sculls, he beat defending Paralympic champion Cheng Huang from China and the world champion Erik Horrie. The Ukrainian has since been a force to be reckoned with, finishing no less than second place at every competition; he is the current world champion. 


5. Upset on the water

Israel’s Moran Samuel was the hot favourite to take Paralympic gold at Rio 2016. Samuel showed her strength at the 2015 World Championships. But Great Britain’s Rachel Morris exacted her revenge at the following Paralympics in the women’s single sculls. A 2008 Paralympic champion in handcycling, Morris overcame a slow start in the Rio final to power through the field and claim an outstanding gold medal. It was the second Paralympic title of her career but first as a rower.