Rowing also offers the opportunity for athletes with disabilities to participate. As a sport, rowing is easily adaptable to people with a wide range of disabilities.
Three functional classifications have been established for competition:
Legs, Trunk and Arms (LTA) is for those who can complete the full rowing stroke using leg drive, body swing and arm action. Rowers in this class compete in either a coxed four, which is a Paralympic event, or a double scull, which is a World Championships event. These are standard rowing boats and able-bodied equipment is generally used although minor adaptations can be made where necessary.
Fours are mixed gender with an equal number of male and female athletes and a cox of either gender who does not need to have an impairment. The international weight for coxes in this event is 50kgs. This category would include athletes who are visually impaired, who have a single lower or upper limb impairment such as an amputation or nerve damage, Multiple Sclerosis, lesser cases of Cerebral Palsy and fused ankles. Only two VI athletes may row in the boat and only one may be a B3, the least severe category. VIs race in blacked out goggles.
The LTA double, a new event, is also for those who can use a sliding seat but who have a higher level of disability, such as an above knee amputation or severe nerve damage in one limb. This category is also for the more severe sight impairments of B2 and B1.
The Trunk and Arms (TA) category includes athletes who do not have use of their legs. They can have the ability to reach forward and lean back, with the movement coming from the hip joint. This movement, combined with the arm pull, adds to the boat speed or ergometer output. This category suits athletes who have good upper body strength and aerobic capacity and may or may not be wheelchair users. Possible disabilities include: double lower limb amputees, lower spinal injuries, Spina Bifida and inability to bend one or both knees.
The main boat type for this classification is a mixed double scull. The boats used in competition are wider than a standard double and have a fixed seat and strapping across the knees. They can also row in a single scull for training and some competitions.
The Arms and Shoulders (AS) classification is for athletes who do not have enough trunk function to use body swing from the hips to add to the boat speed. Athletes compete in a single scull with a fixed seat and back support and chest straps preventing forward motion of the trunk. The boats used in competition are wider than a standard single and have stability floats attached to the rigger. There are separate competitions for men and women.
This classification is suitable for athletes with full use of their arms. Possible disabilities could be a spinal cord injury or high bi-lateral lower limb amputation.
There are opportunities for Para Rowers to compete both nationally and internationally. The standard race distance for Para Rowing Events is 1000m.
Many Irish regattas offer AS and TA events as part of the regatta programme. LTA athletes usually compete in the same events as able-bodied athletes at national level.
For the first time in 2013, a Para Rowing event was included in the Irish Rowing Championships, on a trial basis as a non-Championship event.
At international level, 27 countries currently run Para-Rowing programmes. Para events are incorporated with the World Rowing Senior Championships every year. There are also several events during the year which allow Para Rowers to compete against other nations, including one World Cup, the Varese International Regatta the Holland Beker. In 2013, Irish crews competed in Para-Rowing events at the World Cup II in Eton Dorney.
Para Rowing was added to the Paralympic programme in 2005, and made its first appearance in Beijing in 2008, with four events with equal opportunities for men and women: the LTAMix4+, TAMix2x, ASM1x and ASW1x.
In its second appearance at the Paralympics, in London 2012, 23 countries competed, with a total of 48 boats and 96 rowers. Ireland had its first appearance at the London Paralympics, where the LTAMix4+ finished in 10th place overall.
A new event, the LTAMix2x, was added to the programme in 2013 but does not yet have Paralympic status.
If you would like more information about getting involved in Para-Rowing please contact Rowing Ireland at: firstname.lastname@example.org
World Rowing has a page dedicated to Para Rowing, including information on the classification rules and international events here.