Paralympic Games: TA mixed double sculls preview
When adaptive rowing burst onto the Paralympic scene for the first time in Beijing in 2008 the Chinese duo of Yangiing Zhou and Zilong Shan won the inaugural gold medal.
Last year at the 2011 2011 World Rowing Championships, which also served as the Paralympic Qualification Regatta, a new Chinese line up of Xiaoxian Lou and Tianming Fei surprised the field. Lou and Fei, both 26 years old, finished in a time of 4:01.81 which also set a new adaptive World Best Time by two seconds. Lou and Fei, although not seen since internationally, are likely to be the ones to beat in London.
But the TA mixed double sculls has not always been about the Chinese. This event, which is for one male and one female athlete with the use of their trunk and arms sitting on a fixed seat, was dominated by an American duo in its early days. When this boat class raced internationally for the first time at the 2003 World Rowing Championships it was Angela Madsen and Scott Brown of the United States who became the first World Champions in this event. Thus began a winning streak for this duo that held through to 2006.
Madsen and Brown can be seen as the pioneers of this event not only as the first World Champions but in their longevity at the top. As adaptive rowing grew as a sport both in numbers and countries involved, Madsen and Brown watched the competition improve. In 2007 they finished fifth followed up by a seventh place at the Beijing Paralympic Games. Beijing was their last time competing internationally together. Since then Madsen has become an ocean rower and will compete at the 2012 Paralympic Games in shot put.
Since 2007 several stand-out names regularly appeared on the medals podium. Josiane Lima of Brazil has been competing internationally since 2006 when she finished eighth. The following year she became a World Champion with partner Lucas Pagani. At the Beijing Paralympic Games Lima, competing with Elton Santana, won the bronze medal. Lima continues to row and will compete at the London Paralympics with partner Isaac Ribeiro. The duo did not compete at the 2011 World Rowing Championships and thus had to qualify for London through the Final Paralympic Qualification Regatta held during the Samsung World Rowing Cup in Belgrade, Serbia, in May of this year.
Another top name in the adaptive double is Australia’s Kathryn Ross. Along with partner John MacLean, Ross finished second in their first season racing together in 2007. The next year they were the Paralympic silver medallists. MacLean then took a break from rowing and Ross continued to compete with Grant Bailey – they won a bronze medal together at the 2010 World Rowing Championships. With the return to rowing of MacLean in 2011, the duo took bronze. But for the London Paralympics, Ross will row with a new partner, Gavin Bellis. Bellis and Ross won the final international race before the Paralympic Games, the Samsung World Rowing Cup in Munich, Germany.
France’s Perle Bouge and Stephane Tardieu have been a very stable pairing in the double. They started competing together internationally in 2010 and finished second that year at the World Rowing Championships. Last year Bouge and Tardieu were second again and added another silver medal at the Munich Samsung World Rowing Cup.