In addition to the three individual Para events held at the Charles, it has become a tradition to row a Para crew in the Director’s Challenge Mixed Eights event at the end of the regatta.
As in the past, this Para eight was a mix of World and Paralympic athletes from multiple countries—the USA, Austria, and Canada this year—and finished 9th out of 35 crews.
row2k caught up with US Para Director Ellen Minzner to find out more about this year’s crew and how the Para Great Eight became an an annual fixture at the Head of the Charles.
“The reason to race this eight,” said Minzner, “is there's just not enough opportunities for para rowing to race if you don't make the team. There's no junior team, there’s no U23: it’s the world championships or nothing.
“We had this idea after the great racing in Rio to bring the Paralympic medalists together and form one eight. We did that in 2016, with Great Britain, Canada and the United States each contributing rowers, and it was a lot of fun. We actually won. It was very cool race. I liked it because Para rowing at the elite level? It's legit.
“We started to try and do it almost every year, but the reason to do it is it that we need to have fun. You get to row with people that you were at camp with, but there's so few seats to go around for the Worlds team that you don't really see them again until next year’s tryouts.
“It's a very strong community internationally among the Para rowers, just like it is for the open team. This year we've got people from our PR3 Four, which was fifth at the World Championships. We've got a rower from the Austrian PR3 Double who was fifth in her event. We've got Andrew Todd, Paralympic medalist from Canada, rowing with us and the rest of the crew is made up of our development squad that we sent to Canadian Henley this past summer.”
Another benefit Minzner sees is the opportunity to keep developing the pathway to the Para National Team and the Paralympic Games,
“As a small team, we need people participating at every level in Para rowing. Even the people at the recreational level need to show up and be at regattas, so people ask questions and find out what Para is. The development people need to know what the standards are: this is real tough at the top level. Then the past Paralympians, so that they can guide some of the younger rowers. That's what we're trying to establish.”
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