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Adaptive rowers primed for Paralympic Games as regatta course gets ready in Shunyi
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09:19, September 08, 2008

A total of 96 adaptive rowers have moved into the final assault for the Paralympic Games at north Beijing's Shunyi Olympic Rowing and Canoe Park where the Beijing Olympic rowers stirred up the waters just a couple of weeks ago.

There is an added air of anticipation as this is the first appearance of adaptive rowing at the Paralympic Games.

"It is special for the rowers to participate in this level and especially when the event is making its first appearance in the Paralympics, all the athletes are hoping to make mark with their very first step," said Canadian rower Steve Daniel while waiting for his training session on Sunday.

Alterations have been made to the Shunyi regatta course. The entrance to the boat bays have been fitted with more suitable ramps and similarly the launching docks are designed for easy wheelchair access.

There is a large tent by the docks to store the athletes' aids, crutches, wheelchairs and the like. Toilets and showers are available to cater for wheelchairs.

All of the boats are supplied by the Federation Internationale des Societes D'Aviron (FISA) to ensure same standard with athletes able to add their own riggers and shoes.

"When the park was in process of mapping and construction, the designers have already included the special need of hosting a Paralympic event," Wu Qiang, one of the chief organizers of the rowing event, told Xinhua on Sunday. "So it is much easier for the venue to be transformed."

Racing will take place in four events, namely arms men's single (AM1x), arms women's single (AW1x), trunk, arms mixed double (TA2x)and the legs, trunk, arms mixed coxed four (LTAMx4+).

Six countries, including the United States, Israel, Britain, China, Canada and Brazil, have qualified to race in all four events.

"I think Britain, Israel and Brazil have the chances of winning more medals, and it has become a success for the Chinese rowers to just make it to the Paralympics," said China head coach Liu Xiaochun. "We started to groom the team only two years ago."

Amongst the competitors experience varies. The youngest competitor, 17-year-old Shir Kalmanovitz of Israel, will line up at these Paralympic Games in her first ever international race. She isracing in the coxed four.

At the other end of the spectrum, Angela Madsen of the United States has been competing on the US team ever since adaptive rowing was added to the World Rowing Championship schedule in 2002.Madsen will race in the doubles with long time rowing partner Scott Brown.

The oldest competitor is 68-year-old Harald Wimmer of Germany, who will be competing in the doubles with Siglind Kohler who is 36 years Wimmer's junior.

"There is a definite hum in the air," said Judy Morrison, member of the FISA Adaptive Rowing Commission, describing the atmosphere as a feeling of excitement.

These adaptive rowing events will be raced over 1000m, which means the 2000m regatta course has been altered with a floating dock fixed at the 1000m mark. The same starting procedure in the Beijing Olympics will be used.

Preliminary rounds will be raced on Sept. 9 and 10 with finals raced on 11. Racing starts at three p.m. local time each day and goes for about two and a half hours.

The majority of adaptive rowers qualified for the Games at last year's World Rowing Championships in Munich.

Adaptive athletes must be officially classified in terms of their physical impairments to ensure that they race in the correct event. The majority of the athletes have been classified over the last couple of years and gained permanent paralympic status (PPS).

There are some athletes, like those with progressive diseases, that get reviewed. Some also make improvements, like increased flexibility.

Source: Xinhua

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