Gold for Samuel and Polianskyi at para-rowing international
Para-rowers took to the water in the first international event of the year last weekend in Gavirate, Italy. The three-day 2019 FISA International Para-rowing Regatta saw many of the world’s top para-rowing athletes compete against each other and test their speed in this, the Paralympic qualification year.
In the para PR1 men’s single sculls, Roman Polianskyi of Ukraine reclaimed the top of the podium from Australia’s Erik Horrie. Polianskyi is the reigning Paralympic Champion, but Horrie has bested him at the last two World Championships. The rivalry will provide exciting racing for the upcoming season. Great Britain’s Ben Pritchard took the bronze medal.
Moran Samuel from Israel won gold in the para PR1 women’s single sculls. Samuel has won silver at the last two World Rowing Championships behind Norway’s Birgit Skarstein. Skarstein did not race in Gavirate, but Samuel will certainly be looking to build speed and challenge Skarstein later in the season. Ukraine’s Anna Sheremet finished second and Germany’s Sylvia Pille Steppat was third.
The Dutch duo of Corné de Koning and Annika van der Meer continued their winning streak in the para PR2 mixed double sculls. This combination came together in 2016 and have been unstoppable ever since. They are reigning World Champions and look to be heading for a repeat gold-medal-winning season. Great Britain’s Lauren Rowles and Lawrence Whiteley took silver, with France’s new combination of Perle Bouge and Christophe Lavigne taking bronze.
Great Britain won the title in the para PR3 mixed coxed four. They have a new combination to try and continue their World Championship winning streak. Australia took silver and Ukraine finished third ahead of France.
The FISA International Para-rowing Regatta has become a staple in the para-rowing calendar and it is an excellent opportunity for athletes from around the world to have an early-season race to test their speed. It is also an opportunity for the development of para-rowing.
For Paraguay’s Jose Ramon Duarte Servin, it was the second time attending the para-rowing camp and racing at the international regatta. Duarte, 21, is part of the effort to develop para-rowing in Paraguay. He was discovered when his physiotherapist’s sister started coaching para-rowing. She was looking for athletes and Servin decided to give it a try. He is the only official para-rower in Paraguay and is working to pave the road.
“I just like to row,” Servin says. “I like to come to the camps to race, to learn and to get better.”
Kenya’s Miriam Nandwe is also helping to grow the sport. Nandwe began rowing in 2008, but took a break to get married and have children. Ten years later, she is back in the boat. “Rowing is fun. It is an expensive game, especially compared to where we come from in Africa. But it is fun. Once you get good techniques, good coaches, good facilities,” she snaps her fingers, “it is so nice.”
Nandwe volunteers as the one of the regional coordinators for women with disability in Kenya. She hopes to use sport as one of the activities to help disabled women in the area. And she has decided to set the example. Nandwe will dedicate two years to rowing, resigning from her teaching position. Her goal is to try to qualify for the Tokyo Paralympic Games and show other women that it is possible.
“Sometimes it needs sacrifice,” Nandwe says. “But you should never give up on anything. Just work hard and try your best and everything will end up well.”