Rowers secure a Paralympic first

11/09/2008 - 00:00:00

It was all action at the Shunyi Olympic Rowing-Canoeing Park as adaptive rowers fought it out for the first ever medals in this sport at the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games. Mirror-like water with an ever so slight head wind made the conditions ideal for the rowers who have freely commented on the spirit of camaraderie that has surrounded this regatta. Great Britain dominated both singles events with a double header by Helene Raynsford and Tom Aggar. China took gold in the double and Italy showed their finesse in the four. Read on for action in today’s Finals.

82773995_10Arms Only Women’s Single Sculls

Helene Raynsford of Great Britain is nothing short of a star of this regatta. Raynsford opened the first ever adaptive rowing race at the Paralympic Games by setting a new World Best Time – and, furthermore, she accomplished this in slight head wind conditions. Today Raynsford completely dominated the final.

In an event that favours competitors with long arms, Raynsford’s are short. She has been in the sport less than three years but she has the discipline to know that to do well you have to eat, sleep and breathe your sport. After fixing a technical problem in her boat that delayed the start by five minutes, Raynsford shot out of the start and by the first 250m mark she already had over a length on Liudmila Vauchok of Belarus.

Using a heavily rigged, strong, low-rating stroke, Raynsford had moved to an open water lead by the half-way point. There looked to be little that 2007 world silver medallist Vauchok could do with Ukraine way back in third. Coming into the final 250m, Laura Schwanger of the United States opened up a huge sprint. It was powerful enough to get the American from fifth place into third.


 82772701_10Arms Only Men’s Single Sculls (AM1x)

 Both Great Britain and Ukraine took a direct path from the heats to today’s Final and these two crews were the ones to leap out at the start. Oleksandr Petrenko of Ukraine took off with a very high stroke rate, but Great Britain’s Tom Aggar had gained a fraction of an edge by the 250m mark.

The opening pace of Petrenko and Aggar could not be matched by the four other finalists who instead held an extremely close battle for the bronze medal spot.

Petrenko and Aggar are examples of the two rowing styles seen in this event. There are the jabbers that use a high, fast stroke rate and the sweepers who prefer a lower stroke rate with a longer stroke. Aggar, rating 31, is a sweeper. Petrenko, who used an incredible 54 stroke rate, is a jabber.

Aggar the sweeper still had a slight edge over Petrenko going through the middle of the race. Neither rower was giving anything away. Meanwhile the close battle for third continued. Yeteng Tan of China had held it but the margin over Eli Nawi of Israel was slight. All boats charged for the line. Aggar’s solid sprint gave him the gold. Petrenko hung on to silver and Nawi got the better of Tan to take bronze.


Trunk & Arms Mixed Double Sculls (TAMix2x)

 82771986_10Rocketing off at the start, in the words of on-site commentator, Paul Castle, Brazil took an early lead. In recent years the Brazilians have proved to be very strong in adaptive rowing and this event was their biggest medal chance. Elton Santana and Josiane Lima of Brazil had nearly a boat length lead over John Maclean and Kathryn Ross of Australia, by the first 250m mark. China (Yangjing Zhou and Zilong Shan) was right there with them as well.

 Santana and Lima held on to the lead going through the second 250m mark. The duo used a long and smooth stroke to keep in front of the higher rating Chinese with Maclean and Ross now almost on top of Zhou and Shan. Despite their relatively short time together, Maclean and Ross held together a smooth and technically accomplished stroke.

A move by Zhou and Shan coming through the third 250m, gave them the lead with Santana and Lima slipping back. Maclean and Ross were also able to overhaul the Brazilians. It was going to be a fight for the line. Sensing Chinese success, the crowd was at a roar. Zhou and Shan increased their stroke rate. Maclean and Ross held on. Santana and Lima faded.

At the line China had potted the gold, Australia took second and Brazil held on for third.


Legs, Trunk & Arms Mixed Coxed Four (LTAMix4+)82774872_10

A long, solid stroke got the Italians off the start line first with China, Germany and the United States in hot pursuit. By the half-way point Italy had moved to a full boat length lead while the order of the rest of the field had changed dramatically.

China could not hold their opening pace and had slipped back to fifth. Great Britain had really found their rhythm and moved up from fifth and into second overtaking the United States and reigning World Champions Germany in the process.

With just 250m left to row in this final event of Paralympic rowing, Italy had truly established themselves in the lead moving out to clear water. Paola Protopapa, Luca Agoletto, Daniele Signore, Graziana Saccocci and coxswain Alessandro Franzetti were well on their way to Paralympic gold. The real race was the one for second. The United States, who finished fifth last year, were tied neck and neck with Great Britain. Both boats would have to give it their all to the line. Italy, now feeling comfortable, didn’t need to sprint the finish. A fraction of a better sprint by the United States gave them silver over Great Britain who earn bronze.



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