Para-rower Scott Brown (right) with partner Betsy Mitchell in Aiguebelette.
Para-rower Scott Brown rowed in the 2008 Paralympics after several years spearheading adaptive and para programs in Philadelphia and elsewhere. When Rob Jones and Oksana Masters showed speed in the mixed double, Brown retired from rowing, but now that they have not returned to compete for Rio, Brown felt compelled to make a comeback at the age of 48 in hopes of qualifying the boat for Rio.
Rowing with Betsy Mitchell, Brown finished 10th overall here, two spots short of qualifying for Rio. We talked to Brown about his comeback, his history with the para team, and his goals for Rio.
row2k: After Rob and Oksana Masters did not return to the double after the London Paralympics, your comeback was somewhat inspired by this fact that someone had to come and represent the country here. How did you come to decide to stage a comeback?
Brown: There are a lot of factors that kind of precipitated my comeback here. I had put a lot of time and a lot of effort into helping create this whole adaptive rowing program, and getting it off the ground in the States and internationally. Seeing it flounder a little bit was very disappointing to me, and to see it to not flourish bothered me
It is definitely hard to find adequate athletes. There's plenty of recreational rowers, but you need someone to really step up and take on that elite level. Another factor for me was, Beijing was an absolutely amazing experience, but to miss the A final by less than a second and just to have that storied history that I have and to come away so empty-handed, there has always left that bitter taste in my mouth. That was kind of an incentive to come back.
Then Joe Dobson and Betsy Mitchell were recruiting me, saying hey, come on back. My wife was pushing me a little as well, and with all those kind of factors I said I think I at least need to try and get the boat qualified and maybe somebody can step it up for Rio. But I wanted to just kind of keep the momentum going, so here I am.
row2k: So when did you decide to go for it, what kind of shape were you in, and how did it go?
Brown: I actually committed around the last U.S. rowing convention is Jacksonville, which is where I live now. I was telling Debbie Arenberg and Tom Darling that yeah, I'm in. So I started training in earnest last December, following Tom Terhaar's protocol with lots of volume and long slow distance. Jim Mitchell helped me get my training program together. He's been fantastic; he's a great coach, I am absolutely going to miss him at Jacksonville, but I certainly wish him the best of luck in Wisconsin. I know he'll do very well there. Jim helped me with my training program.
One of the reasons that I left (elite rowing) was rough shoulders. This year I have been putting in tons of volume and even the high intensity work, but because you don't have to do so much high intensity my shoulders have been fine, which is fantastic. The volume has been good, I have repeatability from my races, and endurance is not a factor. I just need to work on power and speed and I think I can get my numbers down significantly between now and April, and certainly by September.
row2k: So you're going to keep going with it?
Brown: I am in this all the way, whatever it takes. If I'm knocked out then I'm knocked out, and it's fine because I just want the fastest possible boat to go to Rio. Obviously we weren't prepared enough here so we didn't qualify the boat so now I'll be off to the qualifier in Italy next year, where the top two will qualify.
We have our work cut out for us. I'm thinking because China dropped out here that they will likely end up going to Italy to qualify their boat unless there were other extenuating circumstances, but they're a formidable boat. That means we have to be Rio ready in April.
It's going to be very tough, so we have to have our fastest crew going. It has to be a very fast boat. I'm very fortunate, I have a lot of flexibility with my job at Brooks Rehab, they've been fantastic so if need be I can take time off to train. I already went down to part time so I have a fair amount of time already dedicated to training.
row2k: Where are you now, compared to where you were at your peak?
Brown: The funny thing is back in the day I didn't do a lot of erg testing. I was the only person, so I didn't have to sit there and pull a 1k. I was just doing my training regimens. But I'm pretty sure that I'm in better shape now than I've been. The new training program has been absolutely fantastic. My 20 minute test keeps getting better and better, I'm setting PRs in the 5k and in the 1k recently, so my times are coming down. It's been fantastic.
I was glad to be able to give Betsy and Joe this once in a lifetime opportunity and I'm kind of hoping this kind of spurs them on to really dig in, get some training done and maybe she'll be competitive for Rio, and we'll see.