Narrowed down to the final six, para-rowers raced for Paralympic medals at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. With full grandstands to cheer them on the para-rowing finals on the Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon enjoyed mirror-like conditions for this warm, overcast day.
The racing began with Rachel Morris setting a new Paralympic Best Time in the para women’s single sculls when she flew past her competition in the final sprint to take the Best Time and the gold medal.
Para Women’s Single Sculls (ASW1x) – Final
After a phenomenal heat two days ago when Lili Wang of China set a new Paralympic Best Time, all eyes were on this sculler who had outrowed the World Champion, Moran Samuel of Israel and the winner of World Rowing Cup III, Rachel Morris of Great Britain. Wang got away the quickest with Samuel in hot pursuit. Wang still had the lead going through the middle of the race with Samuel under pressure from Birgit Skarstein of Norway. Then Morris started to push through and coming into the final sprint, Morris had managed to get ahead of Skarstein and Samuel. Morris was flying. The Brit then not only overtook Wang, she moved away completely. Her time of 5:13.69 was a new Paralympic Best Time. This was a huge eight seconds faster than the time set by Wang in the heats two days ago.
Wang held on to finish in second, just a fraction ahead of Samuel who took bronze.
Results: GBR, CHN, ISR, NOR, BLR, BRA
Rachel MORRIS (GBR) – gold – ASW1x
On winning the gold medal:
“I’m really happy after I got such an appalling start. It’s probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It shows that if you have stuff drilled into you day in, day out, do what coaches tell you, it works.”
On making the transition from handcycling (she won gold in Beijing 2008):
“It was much harder than I thought it would be. Cycling isn’t technical, it’s a physical challenge. I found the technical side of rowing much harder to adapt to.”
On her bad start and suffering from nerves:
“I do really suffer with nerves. I always have done. Coming into a new sport as well probably put me back to where I was with nerves.”
Lili WANG (CHN) – silver
On leading until 750m:
“I got a little bit nervous so I lost my rhythm in the end. Usually I try to do my best at all times, just focus on doing my best.”
Moran SAMUEL (ISR) – bronze
On winning bronze:
“I expected a little more of myself but I had great competitors, they all did well. I’m just happy to win my first Paralympic medal. It’s the biggest celebration of sport and it shows that we’re all just athletes and people.”
Jacqueline Kapinowski of the United States got away just ahead of Eleanora de Paolis of Italy but it was not long before Kapinowski was able to break away completely and lead the way with an open water lead. This left de Paolis to battle it out with South Africa and a very fast finishing Korea. Kapinowski, who has also competed at the winter Paralympics, crossed the line easily in first making her seventh overall in the world.
Results: USA, KOR, ITA, RSA, HUN, ARG
Para Men’s Single Sculls (ASM1x) – Final
Ukraine’s Roman Polianskyi gave an indication of his boat speed when he won his heat two days ago and set a new Paralympic Best Time. With one day’s rest, Polanskyi was back and up against the World Champion, Erik Horrie of Australia and the Paralympic Champion, Cheng Huang of China. Polianskyi got away the fastest with Horrie and also 2008 Paralympic Champion, Tom Aggar of Great Britain very much on the pace. By the middle of the race Polianskyi had managed to get a bit of an edge over Horrie and the field began to spread out with Aggar unable to keep up with Horrie. Aggar had come through to this final via yesterday’s repechage and so had had one extra race to endure.
In the final sprint Polianskyi held off Horrie to become the Paralympic Champion with Horrie the silver medallist and Aggar in bronze medal position. Polianskyi had set a new Paralympic Best Time, breaking the time he set two days ago by five seconds. The new time is 4:39.56.
Results: UKR, AUS, GBR, USA, CHN, BRA
Roman POLIANSKYI (UKR) – gold
On adjusting to Rio:
“The adaptation was quite difficult, it was really impersonal. Adapting to the food, water, climate and everything.”
On his results during the regatta and setting a Paralympic best time in the heats:
“I didn’t hope to get such a good time.”
Erik HORRIE (AUS) – silver
On the result:
“It was a good race. It started off pretty much what I think everyone expected. It was a fast, hectic race. Up and down conditions. It looked a lot flatter than it is I take my hat off to the Ukraine (POLIANSKYI), incredible race, incredible athlete. I just didn’t have enough on the day.”
On winning a second Paralympic silver:
“It would have been nice to go one better but I’m not complaining, that’s for sure.”
Tom AGGAR (GBR) – bronze
On the way he approached the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games compared to London 2012:
“It’s a bit better, it’s a whole world different. London I had a great run into it, I was thinking ‘win win win’. Here I was wanting to produce my best race. I feel I’ve done myself justice in that respect.”
On the changes in para-rowing since he won gold at the Beijing 2008 Games:
“It’s changed a lot, it’s so much more professional. The field is so deep now. You’ve got guys like Erik (HORRIE) coming in who really up the standard of the event. The standard now is way higher than it was in Beijing.”
Germany had the fastest start but it didn’t last as Italy’s Fabrizio Caselli pushed into the lead with the Netherlands in hot pursuit. Margins remained incredibly tight with Alexander van Holk of the Netherlands then levelling with Caselli with 250m left to row. Van Holk took his stroke rate to 41 while Caselli got up to 45 strokes per minute. Van Holk finished sixth at last year’s World Rowing Championships and he must have been more efficient in the final sprint as he crossed the line to take first. Caselli held on to second with Jun Ha Park of Korea in third.
Results: NED, ITA, KOR, LTU, GER, KEN
Para Mixed Double Sculls (TAMix2x) – Final
In the heats two days ago Great Britain had recorded the fastest time and it had also earned Lauren Rowles and Laurence Whiteley a new Paralympic Best Time. Would they win today and would they break their own Best Time? France’s Perle Bouge and Stephane Tardieu had won the other heat and after their win at World Rowing Cup III, they were favourites to medal. At the start Rowles and Whiteley took off at cracking pace to take the lead with China in second and France in third. By the middle of the race China’s Shuang Liu and Tianming Fei had closed on the British and these two boats continued to fight for the lead coming through to the final sprint.
In the remaining 250m of the 1000m race, Rowles and Whiteley managed to hold off the Chinese to become the Paralympic Champions. Liu and Fei took silver ahead of France who earned bronze.
Results: GBR, CHN, FRA, NED, UKR, POL
Lauren ROWLES (GBR) – gold
On the result of the race:
“It’s not as quick a water as we were expecting but we went out hard and tried to hold everyone off. We just had the race of our lives and we enjoyed it.”
On switching from athletics to rowing:
“I learned so much with athletics, I learned what it means to be an athlete. I got a lot of conditioning from athletics but rowing taught me why I love sport and why I especially love rowing. It’s not about medals and it’s not about winning, it’s about loving being on the water every day and enjoying every stroke you take.”
Shuang LIU (CHN) – silver
On winning a medal:
“I feel a little bit tired. My physical condition isn’t enough to get the gold. My partner (FEI Tianming, CHN) is a great athlete so maybe it’s my fault not to achieve the gold.”
Stephane TARDIEU (FRA) – bronze
On winning bronze:
“We’re not satisfied with the result. We couldn’t have done more.”
Perle BOUGE (FRA) – bronze
On their efforts in the race:
“We just didn’t manage to put together the perfect race that we know how to do. We know how to put everything into training, we know how to put everything into races.”
Brazil missed out on making the A-final by just 0.10 of a second in yesterday’s repechage which must have been a huge disappointment. But they came back today with the crowd support well and truly behind them. Michel Pessanha and Josiane Lima of Brazil got out just ahead of Australia’s Gavin Bellis and Kathryn Ross who also just missed out on making the A-final through the repechage. These two crews went neck-and-neck at the head of the field which saw them break away completely from the other boats. A better second half by Pessanha and Lima saw them cross the line in first. Australia, who is the reigning World Champions, finished second and eighth overall at this Paralympic Games.
Results: BRA, AUS, ISR, USA, LAT, JPN
Para Mixed Coxed Four (LTAMix4+) – Final
The definite favourite for this boat class was Great Britain who is the reigning World and Paralympic Champions. But in the heats two days ago, the United States had recorded the fastest qualifying time. These two crews met for the first time today in this final. The United States came flying out at the start with Great Britain and Canada holding on to their pace. Then Great Britain managed to get their nose in front. The United States tried to hold on as Canada began to slip back. Coming through to the final sprint the British still had the edge with the United States now under threat from Canada.
At the line the crew of Grace Clough, Daniel Brown, Pamela Relph, James Fox and coxswain Oliver James had successfully defended their 2012 Paralympic title. Great Britain had won. The crowd then waited. The United States and Canada had gone to a photo finish. The United States were declared silver medal winners by just 0.29 of a second. Canada had earned bronze.
Results: GBR, USA, CAN, GER, RSA, CHN
Pamela RELPH (GBR) – gold
On the result:
“It was just an absolutely amazing day. We felt so well-prepared. These guys are supposed to be the ones that had never done it before and they just kept me so chilled. We train for four years to do one single race, you can’t mess up.”
On being the sole crew member to return from the London 2012 gold medal-winning crew:
“I put a lot of pressure on myself because I knew what it took to win at the top events. In London it was like a little bit of a fairy tale moment, whereas this I feel I’ve reached my absolute peak as an athlete. Here was a bit more calculated, we go out there to do a job. The race was won in the winter. We just knew that we wanted to train harder than anyone else coming into this lake.”
Jaclyn SMITH (USA) – silver
On the result:
“We’ve gone silver the past three years, so we were definitely trying to break out of that trend. I know that the four other people in the boat, everyone gave everything they had and there’s nothing more we could have done. Great Britain (gold medal) is hands-down an amazing crew.”
Meghan MONTGOMERY (CAN) – bronze
On gaining ground on the USA in the second half of the race:
“We came back on the US in a big way. We got from the stern to just being a bow ball away from silver. It was a good race.”
On regaining her seat after not rowing in the boat in 2015:
“This year was about fighting to get back into the boat. That was a big part of us doing so well today. We had a competitive environment in the boat.”
In yesterday’s repechage, France missed out on making the final by just 0.27 of a second. Today France left the starting blocks with a bunch that included Australia, Italy and Ukraine. Australia, who also just missed out on making the A-final in yesterday’s repechage, then managed to get a very slight lead with France just behind Ukraine in third. Then France pushed ahead of Ukraine and closed on Australia. In the sprint to the line Australia managed to just hold on to first with France taking second. Australia finished ninth overall at last year’s World Rowing Championships and now as Paralympians they are seventh in the world.
Results: AUS, FRA, UKR, ITA, AUT, ZIM