Serbia hosts first Para rowing World Cup of 2018

Paralympic and world champions return to the water in Belgrade 31 May 2018
a beauty shot of a rowing lake

Belgrad hosts the first Para rowing World Cup of the 2018 season in June

Ⓒ Igor Meijer/FISA
By Louise Wood | For the IPC

The first round of the Para rowing World Cup gets underway in Belgrade, Serbia from 1-3 June and will see competitions take place across four different classes.

The most hotly contested class is the PR1M1x men's single sculls. It has the most entries and there will be three main contenders fighting for the victory.

Ukrainian Roman Polianskyi is the 2016 Paralympic champion in the event and in the recent regatta held in Gavirate, Italy he won both the men's single sculls races by a clear margin.

Second to Polianskyi in those races was Great Britain's Andrew Houghton. He has been closing the gap on his Ukrainian rival over the past few years and was 5 seconds behind him in Italy.

However, they will both have to beat the current world champion Australia's Erik Horrie. He was the dominant force in the class with four World Championship titles to his name before Polianskyi began the sport. Now their rivalry is one of the most exciting in Para rowing.

Toussaint’s target

Another rower who would eventually like to break into the top three in the class is Belgium's Louis Toussaint. A former cyclist, he turned to rowing after suffering an accident on his bike when he was sixteen which left him with a broken spine, broken ribs and a host of other injuries.

After trying hand biking and athletics he then discovered rowing, although he was not entirely convinced at first that it was for him.

“When I started, I thought, this is going to be so boring. You can only go straight and it’s always the same movement. But actually it is so much broader than that. Each rowing stroke is different, depending on the conditions, on the water. It was eye-opening for me. When I started rowing, I discovered a sport and a pleasure that anyone who doesn’t row, can’t know,” Toussaint said.

The 23-year-old also trains with the national team in Belgium which is helping him to improve his technique.

“I follow the training programme for the national team. I train with world champions. Even if on the water, I just see them pass by me, that allows me to learn a lot of things, such as the catch and the movement of the oar, which is quite similar. The rest of the stroke is different, but the entry in the water, the movement through the water and getting the blade out of the water is the same,” Toussaint explained.

Skarstein returns

The PR1W1x women's single sculls will see 2017 World Champion Birgit Skarstein of Norway take to the water for the first time this season. After competing in Para cross- country skiing at the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games she will be hoping to make a smooth transition back into the boat. She will come up against Ukraine's Anna Sheremet who already has two races under her belt from the Gavirate Regatta. She finished third in both races and so is in good form.

The PR2Mix2x mixed double sculls sees the current World Champions, the Dutch team of Anna Van Der Meer and Corne de Koning go head to head with the Ukrainian team of Svetlana Bohuslavska and Iaroslav Koiuda. They raced in Italy too with the pair from the Netherlands winning by 10 seconds. The Ukrainian team will be looking to close that gap in Belgrade.

Another class that will be raced is the PR2M1x men's single sculls which is a new event that has been introduced this season. It will appear on the schedule for the World Championships in September but is not yet included in the Paralympic Games.

Great Britain's Laurence Whiteley will go up against Dutch rower Corne de Koning. Normally these two race each other in the PR2 mixed double sculls with their partners so it will be interesting to see them compete alone. In Gavirate De Koning won by over 30 seconds so Whiteley will be trying to finish much closer to the Dutchman this time around.