The world’s top Para rowers gathered in Sarasota-Bradenton, USA earlier this month for the first World Championships contested over 2,000m.
Here are five key takeaways from the landmark event.
Skarstein’s stamina pays dividends
Norway’s Birgit Skarstein won the 2014 World Championships and has been one of the top-ranked athletes in the women’s single sculls (PR1 W1x) ever since. After narrowly missing out on a Paralympic medal at Rio 2016, Skarstein has had an excellent 2017 season and has adapted to the new, longer race distance quickly thanks to her stamina built through Nordic skiing. She grabbed her second world title in Sarasota-Bradenton, finishing ahead of Israel’s Moran Samuel and Germany’s Sylvia Pille-Steppart. The dual sport Para athlete will now focus on Nordic skiing ahead of next year’s Paralympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea.
Polianskyi not invincible
In the men’s single sculls (PR1 M1x), Roman Polianskyi of Ukraine was the favourite to clinch back-to-back Paralympic and world titles, following a new world’s best time in the heats. The final was a showdown between Poliyanski and the man he beat in Rio, Erik Horrie of Australia. It was a hard-fought spectacle but it was Horrie who got revenge for the Paralympic final to successfully retain his world title from 2015.
GB dominance continues
Great Britain remain a dominant powerhouse in PR3 Mix4+. Grace Clough and James Fox, who have been teammates for the past three years and won Paralympic gold at Rio 2016, remain undefeated at international Para Rowing events. The victory in Sarasota-Bradenton meant fourth successive world title and third consecutive world title for Fox and Clough respectively. Clough and Fox, along with two new crew members and new coaching staff, now continue to build their form towards Tokyo 2020.
USA emerge as new contenders
In the PR3 mixed coxed four (PR3 Mix4+), hosts USA brought attention to the crowds as they were fighting for top honours against reigning world and Paralympic Champion Great Britain. Their effort was not enough to beat their transatlantic rivals, but it did secure the USA’s only medal in the World Championships as they claimed silver.
New race distance making a difference
The 2017 World Rowing Championships became the first major event to feature 2,000m races, double the distance previously raced by Para rowers. The new longer race distance has demonstrated endurance, stamina and strength among athletes that led to a different medal table from Rio 2016. Great Britain won three out of four Paralympic events at Rio 2016; Australia, Great Britain, the Netherlands and Norway each sealed gold at the 2017 Worlds.
The number of countries on the medal tally was 11, three more than Rio 2016, and the signs are the new race distance will continue to help the sport grow in the lead up to Tokyo 2020.