If predicted strong winds abate in time, the nation’s top para-rowers will be going flat out this weekend with Rio in mind.
Reigning Paralympic Champion Pamela Relph and 2008 Champion Tom Aggar will line up at the national training centre near Reading alongside would-be Paralympians to take on a 2km time-trial designed to test their fitness and endurance in front of the coaches and selectors.
This is the first step in a winter of testing aimed at selecting the Rio 2016 team with competition for seats in the boats hotter than ever before.
With such a strong Paralympic history to uphold – rowing has only been a part of the last two Paralympic Games; yet Great Britain has won three out of the eight gold medals on offer – and only fractions of a second likely to be the difference between gold and silver, marginal gains will be crucial in the Team’s quest for medals in Brazil next year. SAS, the Official Analytics Partner of British Rowing and the GB Rowing Team, will help the coaches and para-rowers to better understand the way they use their performance data, to ultimately gain a competitive advantage over their competitors.
Grace Clough, Pamela Relph, Dan Brown and James Fox were all in the World Champion coxed four, coxed by Oliver James, in Aiguebelette in September. They will want to prove their continued mettle on Saturday against those knocking on the door including Rose Linden and Sam Murray – both visually-impaired athletes who came close earlier this year – and amputee rower Jordan Beecher.
GB qualified four boats for Rio at the Worlds – the mixed coxed four, the trunk-arms double scull, and both of the arms-shoulders single sculls. All four crews finished on the podium at an event which saw the four retain their World title in a searingly close encounter with the USA.
Laurence Whiteley and Lauren Rowles raced the double in France. Whiteley had waited and trained alone for two years for a suitably-classified female to emerge in this category. 17 year-old Rowles fitted the bill having transferred from wheelchair track racing and the duo took a debut silver.
Scott Meenagh, an injured ex-serviceman, will be amongst those seeking to challenge for a place in this boat over the winter and early racing season.
The group racing this weekend under lead coach Tom Dyson’s watchful eye will include a new tranche of development rowers like Jack Faull, 18 year-old Scott Jones, ex-serviceman James Rose and Liam Morris.
“We have a competitive group who are pushing each other on in training and this weekend will be a tough test of their endurance as well as their ability to handle pressure”, said Dyson.
The first GB Rowing Team para-rowing assessment takes place on Saturday 14 November at the GB Rowing Team’s HQ in Caversham, UK, and all results will be available on the British Rowing website at www.britishrowing.org.