Skarstein back in the water

The Norwegian rower will race at the World Championships before focusing on PyeongChang 2018 23 Sep 2017
Norway's Birgit Skarstein, AS Women's Single Sculls heat, 2015 World Rowing Cup II Varese, Italy

Norway's Birgit Skarstein retained her world title in the women's single sculls

ⒸFISA/Igor Meijer
By Fumiaki Fujita and IPC

“The goal is to perform my very best, and if I manage to do that, I hope the result will be good enough for a medal"

Before Norway’s Birgit Skarstein returns to Nordic skiing, she will try to win a World Championships medal in rowing.

The 28-year-old dual sport athlete is among the top names contending for the gold in the PR1 women’s single sculls (PR1 W1x) at the World Rowing Championships, beginning Sunday (24 September) in Sarasota-Bradenton, USA.

“The goal is to perform my very best, and if I manage to do that, I hope the result will be good enough for a medal,” Skarstein said.

Skarstein competed at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games and is training for her third Paralympic Games, second Winter Games at PyeongChang 2018. Thus, with this year being a World Championships for rowing and also an important year for PyeongChang 2018 qualification, the Norwegian has had her hands tied.

“I didn’t take a break after Rio, but went straight into skiing season, so I had a good winter with lots of kilometers on the snow,” she said.

Reaching PyeongChang 2018 is her aim. But she is also looking past that toward Tokyo 2020, where she can make up for her fourth-place finish from Rio 2016.

“We [me and my training staff] have a tight schedule on what I need to get through to be able to perform in both sports, without letting them destroy each other,” she explained.

“During the spring and summer, I spent every morning with the Norwegian rowing team. In the afternoons, I [would do] strength training and, or skiing on a treadmill.

“Skiing is an advantage in adapting into the longer distance in rowing, since my competition times differ from four minutes to 45 minutes. However, I need to get the skiing technique out of my rowing, and the rowing technique out of my skiing.”

Skarstein will try to improve on her bronze from the 2015 World Championships in Aiguebelette, France. But it will not be simple, as rowers will race over 2,000m as the distance was doubled this year.

Skarstein added that the new distance hopefully “takes us down the road to more international regattas for Para rowers and hopefully one day fully integrated in the World Cup [today, it is one World Cup and the World Championships].”

She won gold in her first 2,000m race at the 2017 World Rowing Cup II in Poznan, Poland this June. Her toughest competition might come from Israel’s Moran Samuel, who beat out Skarstein for bronze at Rio 2016.

“Rio was quite a journey,” Skarstein said. “We [the Norwegian national team] have started the road to Tokyo now, and Sarasota is an important goal on the way.”

The 2017 World Rowing Championships run until 1 October and more information can be found on World Rowing’s website.