The decision by the international rowing federation FISA to keep on-water rowing for cognitively impaired athletes out of the 2012 Paralympic Games should spur supporters of adaptive rowing to work even harder to promote that area of the sport, says UCanRow2‘s Terry Smythe.
FISA announced in a news release that it was retracting an earlier decision to include cognitively impaired rowers in the 2012 Paralympics, saying that after surveying member national federations “there was not yet an adequate number of federations ready or able to prepare crews in time for 2012.”
“Clearly this is a disappointing ruling,” Smythe said, “but what all of us who support adaptive rowing need to do now is come together and rally behind the many people and organizations working with cognitively impaired athletes.”
Competitive events that support adaptive indoor rowers, including the cognitively impaired, should be supported now more than ever, she added, as they help identify athletes with potential to be competitive on the water.
Smythe applauded FISA’s statement that it continues to have a “very strong commitment to make its sport available for individuals with physical or intellectual disabilities.”
“Particularly for adaptive athletes, rowing can be life altering because it is a sport they can participate in almost like anyone else,” said Smythe, who has worked with adaptive populations of all kinds for more than a decade. “We need to do everything we can to assure the sport’s continued growth so that as many people as possible can benefit from the joys of rowing in general, and competing specifically.”
The adaptive category is the fastest-growing area within the sport of rowing. In the past three years activity at clubs that offer on-water and indoor adaptive rowing has grown steadily and on-water regattas have quadrupled.
Indoor rowing machine events, meanwhile, are growing their adaptive numbers in some cases and adding adaptive categories in others: The annual C.R.A.S.H.-B. Sprints, the marquis world indoor rowing championship, welcomed adaptive athletes for the first time in February 2010 and drew 38 participants from three countries.
“At UCanRow2 we say that ‘Rowing is for Every Body,’” Smythe said. “If we all keep that mantra in mind as we continue to work hard adaptive rowing will prevail, and thrive.”