When the World Rowing Championships begin on Sunday (30 August) in Aiguebelette, France, the para-rowing events will see more boats than usual on the water, giving a positive sign in the direction of the sport.
Seventy boats overall have entered in the four events on the Paralympic programme. It will be the largest number of entries at the World Championships in the Paralympic boat classes since the sport was added to the Paralympic programme for the 2008 Games. The entries include: 15 in the AS women’s single sculls, 24 in the AS men’s single sculls, 14 in the TA mixed double sculls and 17 in the LTA mixed coxed four.
In previous Paralympic qualification years, the 2007 and 2011 World Championships saw 62 boats and 57 boats entered, respectively.
World Rowing credited part of the growth back to the para-rowing training camp held 7-17 May in Gavirate, Italy. The 10-day camp was a combined effort by several stakeholders to encourage the participation of new nations that had not yet participated in para-rowing at World Championships.
Funded by the World Rowing Federation (FISA) and the IPC’s development arm Agitos Foundation, the camp was facilitated by the Italian Rowing Federation (FIC) and also received the support of the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS).
“The Italian Rowing Federation considered it important to help FISA with the para-rowing training camp, in the context of the development programme,” said President of the FIC Giuseppe Abbagnale. “In this case, we offered the assistance of two coaches who worked in synergy with the Gavirate rowing club, which offered facilities, and [Italy-based member of FISA’s Para Rowing Commission] Paola Grizzetti’s experience helping developing countries to learn training techniques and being involved in the rowing world by participating for the first time in an international regatta.”
No fewer than five athletes in the AS men’s single sculls who attended the training camp will line up at their first World Championships. They come from the Czech Republic; Hong Kong, China; Kenya; Lithuania and Mexico. In the LTA mixed coxed four, Austria will be sending their first para-crew to a World Championships, after having taken part in the training camp.
In addition to on-water training, strength drills and recovery sessions, the camp’s 10-day programme covered topics such as boat rigging, equipment regulations, athlete selection for the appropriate boat classes, an overview of para-rowing classifications and how to develop a national para-rowing programme.
The Gavirate Rowing Club made its facilities, such as its club house, boat park, gym, catamaran, coaches and boats (including boats recruited from Filippi, FIC and Swift), available to the camp. The club also coordinated all of the activities in the lead up to the camp. Club volunteers also attended to the various needs of the athletes and coaches present.
The European-based training centre of the Australian Institute of Sport hosted the accommodation, the meals and the seminars.
Grizzetti and Shirley Stokes from Australia acted as the main coordinators of the camp.
“We really hope these developing national federations can bring some new expertise and what they have learned [back] to their countries,” Abbagnale said. “And of course, [we hope they will] join permanently the world of rowing for the global growth of our sport and, generally, to implement social inclusion, to show how much a disabled person can do giving everyone a better vision of their life.”
Competition will be fierce as only the eight highest ranking boats in each category in Aiguebelette will qualify for the 2016 Paralympic Games. Next year, at the final Paralympic Qualification Regatta, a further two boats in each event will be given a last chance to qualify.
The World Rowing Championships run until 6 September. Live results of all races and video stream of the A and B finals (3 September) can be found on World Rowing website.