Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Henley athletes set for Rio Paralympics

THE Great Britain Paralympic rowing squad for Rio was unveiled on the second day of Henley Royal

THE Great Britain Paralympic rowing squad for Rio was unveiled on the second day of Henley Royal Regatta.

The nine selected athletes completed a row past along the regatta course on Thursday.

They included Leander’s Pam Relph who will compete in the mixed coxed four with Daniel Brown, of Upper Thames Rowing Club, Grace Clough, James Fox and cox Oliver James, also of Leander. The crew are the reigning world champions.

Relph is the only returning member of the victorious gold medal crew from London 2012.

A physics graduate from University of Birmingham, she took up rowing after arthritis led to reduced movement in her wrists and ended her planned army career.

She said: “I am over the moon to be selected for my second Paralympic Games and feel so excited and nervous at the prospect of trying to defend my gold medal from London 2012.

“This season has been the toughest yet and I am looking forward to going to Rio to race the rest of the world. The team that has been selected is far stronger than any I have been a part of in my six years of rowing for GB and I am proud to be a part of such a talented squad.

“We’re going to be confident because we’ve had a really good four years. We’re just taking it one day at a time.”

“It’s nice that my parents can finally buy their tickets (to Rio) and feel confident! My whole family are involved in me being the athlete I am.”

Fox and cox James are triple world champions with Relph. James took up coxing whilst at the University of Warwick and Fox, a former non-disabled club rower, classified into pararowing because of a congenital ankle condition.

Clough and Brown are the most recent additions to the crew, joining the boat in 2014 for the world championships that year and contributing to world titles in both 2014 and 2015.

Also selected was Rachel Morris, who has previously competed for ParalympicsGB in cycling at two Paralympic Games, winning gold in Beijing and bronze in London, and who now turns her attention to the women’s single scull.

A relatively new partnership in the mixed double sculls was selected, with Laurence Whiteley joining up with Lauren Rowles.

Whiteley had competed in a non-Paralympic class boat while the GB rowing team undertook a two-year-long search for a partner who could compete alongside him in the double. Teenager Rowles was spotted by GB team staff by chance at Stoke Mandeville and transitioned from athletics where she was a successful wheelchair racer. The duo first competed internationally at the 2015 world championships, where they won silver.

Selected for his third consecutive Games Tom Aggar, of Marlow Rowing Club, will compete in the arms-shoulders men’s single scull event. Aggar is the longest-serving of the para-rowers currently on the squad.

He started rowing in 2007 and made history as the first ever Paralympic champion in the men’s arms-only single scull when he won gold at Beijing 2008, where the sport made its Paralympic debut. He is a 2014 and 2015 world silver medallist and will be seeking to add to his medal collection in Rio.

He said: “We’re trying to raise the profile of the sport wherever we can. Henley Royal Regatta is the home of rowing in many ways. It’s nice to showcase our sport and our boats.

“I’ve no doubt Rio’s going to be a competitive field and there’s going to be a real fight for the positions.”

Aggar said his scull was about 10 kilos heavier than an Olympic single scull and it features a fixed seat and stabilisers.

Penny Briscoe, chef de mission of ParalympicsGB, said: “The GB Rowing Team is known internationally for producing consistently outstanding athletes and crews and this pararowing team is absolutely no different. I am delighted that I am announcing such a strong team to join ParalympicsGB for Rio 2016.

“These rowers have proved themselves on the international stage and I am confident they will do the same at the Paralympic Games. I would like to thank all their coaches and support staff at GB Rowing for all their hard work to produce this team.” 

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