Para-rowers join the action at the World Rowing Championships
A hot day greeted para-rowers for their first day of racing at the 2017 World Rowing Championships in Sarasota-Bradenton, United States. With perfect water conditions at the Nathan Benderson Park regatta venue, para-rowers raced over the full 2000m distance for the first time at a World Rowing Championships.
Para PR1 Women’s Single Sculls (PR1 W1x) – Heats
Two heats meant that these athletes had to be in a top two position for a direct path to the final. The top two rowers in Heat One must have been Birgit Skarstein of Norway and Moran Samuel of Israel. Samuel took bronze at last year’s Paralympic Games just ahead of Skarstein who finished fourth. Skarstein then took gold at World Rowing Cup II this year in Poznan. The Poznan race was the first time internationally that para-rowers raced 2000m and Skarstein has said that her stamina from doing para-skiing has definitely been to her advantage over the longer distance. By the middle of the race Skarstein had moved away to a huge lead with Samuel following in second and Italy’s new sculler, Anila Hoxha in third. Hoxha first raced internationally two years ago and is now a full time rower. The order did not change through to the end and Skarstein took a comfortable win.
It was neck-and-neck at the start of Heat Two between Germany’s Sylvia Pille-Steppart and Hallie Smith of the United States. Smith is new to the international racing scene while Pille-Steppart took silver at World Rowing Cup II. Smith used a higher-quick stroke rate of 44 to stay with the lower rating Pille-Steppart at 35 strokes per minute. Then Pille-Steppart, a former marathon runner, started to pull away from Smith. Meanwhile Paralympic silver medallist, Lilli Wang of China was back in third and off the pace. This must show the impact of the move in para racing from 1000m to 2000m in 2017. Superior stamina paid off for PIlle-Steppart who finished first in a time of 11:45.72. Smith, in second also qualified and was very happy with her race.
Qualifiers: NOR, ISR, GER, USA
Para PR1 Men’s Single Sculls (PR1 M1x) – Heats
There were three heats in this boat class and the goal here was to be in a top two position for a direct path to the semifinals. In Heat One it was no surprise to see Paralympic Champion, Roman Polianskyi of Ukraine in the lead. Brazil’s Rene Pereira followed closely keeping Polianskyi honest. Johannes Schmidt of Germany was in third and closing on Pereira. But then after the half way point Schmidt decided to take the pressure off and let Pereira be the qualifier. Polianskyi remained in first and managed to pull away from Pereira who was comfortably in second. Polianskyi finished in a time of 10:07, 20 seconds off the World Best Time.
Heat Two looked to be tight as Russia, Great Britain and United States all got away to a good start. Alexey Chuvashev of Russia took silver at World Rowing Cup II and by the first 500m mark he had a small lead over Great Britain’s new single sculler, Andrew Houghton. Houghton has been number two to former British sculler Tom Aggar who has now retired, so Houghton is back in the boat. Paralympian Blake Haxton of the United States followed in third. Houghton continued to push Chuvashev as the crews moved into the second half of the race. This was a great race for Houghton who was not giving an inch to the more experienced Chuvashev. The Russian held a 38 stroke rate ahead of Houghton’s 36. In the final sprint Chuvashev managed to move away from Houghton with Haxton remaining in third and outside of a qualifying spot.
Heat Three had Australia’s Erik Horrie and Jaroslaw Kailing of Poland taking off together at the head of the field. Horrie is a three-time World Champion and then took silver at the 2016 Paralympic Games. Horrie got to the first 500m in the lead with Kailing follow in second. Kailing was the bronze medallist in front of his home crowd at World Rowing Cup II in Poznan this year and he looks to be one of the scullers that has taken easily to the new 2000m distance. Horrie, though, continued in the lead and moved away from the rest of the field as the race advanced. France’s Pascal Daniere slotted into third and seemed to be just a bit off the pace to really challenge Kailing for a qualifying spot.
Horrie now looked comfortable out in front and had taken his stroke rate down, looking effortless and sending out a message to his competitors from the other heats. Horrie came through to the finish rating a low 27 stroke rate and then down to 24. Despite this cruisy finish Horrie had recorded the fastest qualifying time of the three heats.
Qualifiers: UKR, BRA, RUS, GBR, AUS, POL