Paralympic Games: AS men’s single sculls preview
As the clock ticks down to the second Paralympic Rowing Regatta ever, 12 AS men’s single sculls are preparing to line up against each other at Eton-Dorney Lake in Great Britain in pursuit of an Olympic medal.
After Paralympic rowing’s debut in Beijing, China, in 2008 and the success of the 2012 Olympic Rowing Regatta earlier this month, rowing is one of the most highly anticipated sports on the Paralympic schedule.
One name really stands out in the AS men’s single sculls event: Tom Aggar. The British sculler has never known defeat, winning every race he has contested on the international scene. And he has done so in a very convincing manner. Aggar first came to rowing in 2006 looking to gain fitness after an accident which left him without the use of his legs. First competing in an indoor rowing competition, he soon began to row on the water in an adaptive boat.
Aggar is defending Olympic Champion, and four-time World Champion. He holds the World Best Time of 4:49.80, which was set on Lake Karapiro, New Zealand in 2010 and was awarded the FISA Adaptive Crew of the Year in both 2009 and 2010. Can anyone stop him winning Olympic gold on home water?
Competition will be fiercer than ever at Eton-Dorney this year as a number of competitors have challenged Aggar during this Paralympic cycle.
Russia’s Alexey Chuvashev has risen through the ranks over the past two years, finishing fourth at the World Rowing Championships in 2010 and winning a silver medal behind Aggar at the 2011 World Rowing Championships in Bled, Slovenia. Chuvashev first came to rowing in 2009 and quickly made his mark in the single. A former soldier in the Russian Army, Chuvashev was injured in the war in Chechnya.
Australia’s Erik Horrie is another strong contender for an Olympic medal. He has the most recent accolade on the international adaptive scene – the gold medal from the 2012 Munich Adaptive Regatta and won bronze last year at the 2011 World Rowing Championships. Horrie started rowing in 2010 after a car accident 10 years left him injured. He first made his mark on the sporting world in wheelchair basketball, before his local rowing club identified him as having potential in adaptive rowing.
Also in the mix for the medals is Danny McBride from New Zealand. McBride started rowing in 2009 with the aim of participating in both the World Rowing Championships and the Paralympic Games, and both aims are about to be achieved. After a forestry accident in 1999, McBride experimented with other wheelchair sports and served time as the captain of the New Zealand Wheelchair Basketball team, before turning to rowing.
2010 was a magical year for McBride – in his first international race ever, he won a bronze medal in the ASM1x on home water at the World Rowing Championships on Lake Karapiro. Though he was eighth 2011, he is one to watch out for at Eton-Dorney.
Don’t rule out experience, however. Ronald Harvey of the United States of America, the most experienced adaptive rower in this event, could also challenge for a medal. He started rowing in 1989 and won a bronze medal in his first international ASM1x race at the 2004 Adaptive World Championships. Two years later, he went one better, winning a silver medal at the World Rowing Championships at Eton-Dorney. Harvey returns to Eton-Dorney this year with a fourth place finish in 2011 and desire to win a medal.
Korea’s Jun-Ha Park also has a wealth of experience. Park rowed for 20 years as an able-bodied, until he suffered a spinal cord injury in a car accident. He was fifth last year at the World Rowing Championships, and won silver behind Horrie this year at the Munich Adaptive Regatta in Germany.
Winning a silver medal at the World Rowing Championships in both 2009 and 2010, Ukraine’s Andrii Kryvchun has his sight set on challenging for Paralympic gold. Despite a below-par 2011 season which meant Kryvchun had to qualify at the Final Paralympic Qualification Regatta earlier this year in Belgrade, Serbia, his early form in the adaptive single shows he has some speed.
Brazil’s Luciano Luna de Oliveira won the Final Paralympic Qualification Regatta after finishing ninth at the World Rowing Championships, one place outside of direct Paralympic qualification. He rows at the same rowing club as 2007 World Champion AS women’s single sculler Claudia Santos.China’s Cheng Huang is a new entry to the field this year, whilst Spain’s 2008 Paralympian Juan Barcia Alonso has been steadily improving over the Paralympic cycle.
Bipartite invitations were offered to Argentina’s Carlos Vyzocki and Germany’s Johannes Schmidt to complete the field of 12 boats. Schmidt started adaptive rowing just 6 months before the World Rowing Championships last year, but was an able-bodied rower from 1992 to 2004 and junior rowing coach in Germany from 2005 to 2008. After an accident in 2008, Schmidt set his goal – to qualify for the Paralympic Games. His dreams are coming true.
The London 2012 Paralympic Rowing Regatta begins on Friday 31 August and finals and ends on Sunday 2 September, where one of these inspirational men will be clutching an Olympic gold medal.