Athlete of the Month - January 2014
A stalwart of Rowing Australia's Para-rowing team Kathryn Ross has been to both the 2008 Paralympic Games and the 2012 London Paralympics. Ross has been part of the growth and development of Para-rowing and along the way she has picked up a whole bunch of medals. At the 2008 Beijing Paralympics it was a silver in the TA mixed double sculls.
Then last year at the 2013 World Rowing Championships Ross, with new partner Gavin Bellis became a World Champion. Ross starts 2014 off as World Rowing's Athlete of the Month and we are proud to share her with you.
World Rowing: Where are you at present and where will you be for the month of Jan?
Kathryn Ross: I am currently based in Canberra ACT (Australian Capital Territory) Australia. I moved here four years ago to be based under the AIS (Australian Institute of Sport) and the Rowing Australia headquarters to give myself the best opportunity leading into the London 2012 Games.
WR: What is your typical day like at the moment?
KR: A typical day for me consists of getting up in the morning to a rowing session then once finished I’m off to work or a few hours. After work I head off for another training session of either weights or cross training.
WR: Are you a full-time athlete?
KR: Yes, I have been a full-time athlete for three years now, but I also worked full-time at the Australian Sports Commission in the finance division. I will be having a break from full-time to part-time work this year to attend university in February to study a nursing degree.
WR: How did you get into rowing and what made you choose it over swimming?
KR: Swimming is a passion of mine, (it always has been the one thing that gave me the freedom from pain and of normality) and after competing in a few open water (ocean) swimming competitions I found that I was quite competitive in my age group. I thought, 'what can I do with this?' The Beijing Games was only 18 months away so I decided I would strive towards that. I went along to a talent search day the Australian Paralympic Committee (APC) were holding in the area and I was tested in a number of sports (rowing included). The conclusion, even though I was quite good at swimming, was they decided that I had a noticeable talent in rowing. I had never rowed before and knew nothing about the sport but with Beijing my goal I decided to put my trust in the APC and give rowing a go.
WR: What are the features of swimming that has helped you with in you rowing?
KR: Swimming has helped me and continues to help me with my success in rowing. I use swimming as a cross training tool and I take a few elements of swimming such as breathing and rhythm of the swimming strokes into the boat with me.
WR: You have been involved in other sports as well. Tell us about them.
KR: Apart from rowing and swimming the only other sport that I have competed on a national level is speedway dirt Go Kart racing. I use to also play local netball, badminton, dodge ball, clay target shooting, boxing and also loved to hit the gym classes such as body pump.
WR: Have you always been into sport, or did it come later?
KR: I have always loved to play sport, especially team sports, but while growing up, my injuries from the accident made it very hard to be a part of or be picked for sports. It wasn’t until I was in the later years of high school that I started athletics (shot put, discus and javelin), clay target shooting and swimming. I was a very late starter into rowing; 25 years old.
WR: Tell us about your disability.
KR: I acquired my disability at the age of two when I was run over by a ride-on lawn mower on our family farm. The injuries were solely to my right leg, knee and ankle. While growing up I had to endure continuous corrective experimental surgery just to have use of my leg. It wasn’t until I was 20 years old that I finally said enough is enough for now, I just wanted to live and enjoy life. Since taking up rowing it has helped strengthen my leg, back and hips which in turn helps with my walking and keeps me out of a wheelchair longer and from having more corrective surgery. Rowing gives me the wonderful feeling of what I hope running would be like. I have a real freedom feeling, especially when I’m rowing fast.
WR: How do you explain Para-rowing to people who don’t know the sport?
KR: Generally if anyone asks about Para-rowing or my classification in particular (trunk and arms) I explain the differences of how I row to the normal rowing technique. Such as I race over 1km instead of 2km, the boat I race in is wider and heavier than a normal boat and I do not use a sliding seat. I don’t use my legs as they are strapped down and I row with complete upper body, hence the name trunk and arms. I use my back like legs, otherwise the rowing movement is the same.
WR: What race are you most proud of in your career?
KR: I would have to say the most recent race at the World Rowing Championships in Chungju, even more than winning silver at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games.
After making the decision to continue for another round after the heartbreaking result at the London 2012 Games due to injury, I wasn't sure if my heart was in the sport anymore. Winning an unexpected gold in Chungju was the most amazing feeling I have ever experienced.
When I say unexpected, I had a poor training year leading in due to injuries, trying to juggle full-time employment and full -time training and feeling that I had not put 100 per cent into my preparation. I believe that the final race was the best race that I have ever had. I’m so proud of how I handled the waves throughout the year and turned a very upsetting result into a positive one. I hope I can have many more just like it.
World Rowing: Tell us about your training regime.
Kathryn Ross: My usual training regime consist of two to three training sessions a day such as rowing on the water, weights, core work, cardio and stretching. A lot of my training consists of water work, I row on the water six times a week but add in multiple cross training sessions such as cycling, swimming, hand crank, elliptical, circuit and boxing training.
WR: What has been your hardest workout this month?
KR: I have just been getting back into weight training and circuit training after injury and I have been pushing really hard in these sessions. I find them hard and challenging but very rewarding once completed, out of breath, muscle fatigued and exhausted.
WR: What kinds of workouts do you least look forward to?
KR: Ergos, ergos, ergos! Being a trunk and arms rower, using just upper body, the ergo is definitely not my favourite exercise!
WR: Is erging part of your training?
KR: No it isn’t. I try to do the least amount of erging as possible due to how taxing it is on my body and the injuries it causes.
WR: Before a race where can you be found in the hour before you go on the water?
KR: The hour before racing you can usually find me in the Australian tent stretching, chatting, going through the race plan and trying to calm my nerves. I’m not big on listening to music. I find talking to anyone before I race to be calming to me a lot more than being on my own.
WR: Do you have any sporting heroes or mentors?
KR: No I don’t have any specific sporting heroes or mentors. I love looking up to anyone who has a real hard go at anything. I love what they dream to do with dignity and pride.
WR: What do you like to do outside of rowing, if you had any spare time?
KR: Spare time… what is that? Ha ha! Whenever I have any spare time I love to get out and see and explore new things with family and friends such as rock climbing, stand up paddle boarding, kayaking etc. I love to watch movies, go out for an amazing meal and sometimes just being a couch potato.
WR: What is your next regatta?
KR: The next regatta for me is the first one of the season which is the state titles and then a month later the Australian national titles.
WR: What are your future rowing plans?
KR: At the moment I am just taking things year by year but my goal is to compete at the Rio Paralympic Games which will be my third Games and hopefully third time lucky!