The move from 1000m to 2000m brings para-rowing into alignment with other races on the World Rowing Championship schedule. Doubling the distance means a longer race, but what will it mean for training?

International coach Thor Nilsen believes that the change will not be too radical. “The training system must change, but not as much as when women’s rowing changed from 1000m to 2000m” says Nilsen, who recently retired after serving many years as World Rowing’s Development Director.

The reason for this difference, explains Nilsen is due to the race duration rather than the distance being raced. “Women’s 1000m was a ‘power sport’,” he says. For 2000m racing, “the physiological profile changed to endurance training.”

“If we look at the (1000m) times from Rio (Paralympic Games),” Nilsen continues, “you have times that show all boats are in the endurance area, except for the (mixed coxed four). To find the expected times for the future, you can just double up and you will have times from 8 to 12 minutes with some faster results from the best rowers and crews.”

Para-rowers in the coxed four event will, therefore, face the greater adjustment to their training, but the biggest change according to Nilsen is the load that the longer distance for all para-rowing events will place on the body during racing. “With more time invested, the body can be overloaded,” says Nilsen.

Although the level of what each rower can do is based on their individual abilities.

“It will take some time before the active federations have adjusted themselves to the new distance,” Nielsen concludes, “but in the future para-rowers will get the same conditions as all other rowers, which we must see as progress.”

Classification and names

Para-rowing has also made changes to the names of boat classes. The classification itself will remain the same, but the names are changing to be more in line with International Paralympic Committee names.

There are three para-rowing levels of ability – these are technically referred to as ‘sport classes’. The three sport classes are labelled PR1, PR2 and PR3, where ‘PR’ stands for para-rowing and numbers 1, 2 and 3 indicate the level of ability. These line up with the former AS, TA and LTA designations:

PR1 = formerly AS (functional use of arms and shoulders, but minimal or no trunk function)

PR2 = formerly TA (functional use of trunk and arms, but cannot use sliding seat to move boat)

PR3 = formerly LTA (functional use of legs, trunk and arms and can use sliding seat to move boat)

The new sport class labels are combined with the type of crew (M for men, W for women, Mix for mixed gender – half men and half women). At the international level, there are five para-rowing boat classes at the World Rowing Championships, while all but one of these are contested at the Paralympic Games. These five are:

Para PR1 men’s single sculls (PR1 M1x) – formerly ASM1x
Para PR1 women’s single sculls (PR1 W1x) – formerly ASW1x
Para PR2 mixed double sculls (PR2 Mix2x) – formerly TAMix2x
Para PR3 mixed double sculls (PR3 Mix2x) – formerly LTAMix2x (World Rowing Championships only)
Para PR3 mixed coxed four (PR3 Mix4+) – formerly LTAMix4+