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World champs Santos, Aggar lead strong field at Paralympics rowing event
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16:59, September 08, 2008

World champions Claudia Santos and Tom Aggar will head a strong field at the Beijing Paralympic Games rowing event starting on Tuesday, featuring several outstanding rowers with solid chances of securing gold medal.

The Games' most recently-introduced sport features three days of 1,000m racing in arms men's single (AM1x), arms women's single (AW1x), trunk, arms mixed double (TA2x) and the legs, trunk, arms mixed coxed four (LTAMx4+).

In women's singles, world champion Santos of Brazil is considered one of the heaviest favorites.

She impressively took the world crown at Oberschleissheim, Germany in her first year of international competition and has worked tirelessly to refine her style and race tactics since that breakthrough 2007 victory.

Santos will find her most formidable opposition in an in-form Svitlana Kupriianova of Ukraine.

Kupriianova finished fourth at the 2007 World Championships but has trained solidly and shown dramatic improvement since that time.

She secured her berth at the Beijing 2008 Paralympics with an emphatic win over world championship silver medallist Luidmila Vauchok from Belarus at the World Cup regatta at Poznan, Poland in June.

Britain's 2006 world champion Helene Raynsford did not compete at the 2008 World Cup but has the experience to challenge for a place on the podium while 2006 and 2007 World Championship bronze medallist Martyna Snopek from Poland will also be in the medal hunt.

Three-time Paralympic Games track and field athlete Laura Schwanger of the United States celebrated her recent conversion to rowing by taking the gold medal in this event at the 2007 U.S. national Paralympic Games.

Schwanger, Portugal's Filomena Franco and China's Zhang Jinhong are determined campaigners and will certainly be athletes to watch.

"The sport helps me find out my potential," said Zhang, who won the women's singles in the Asian Championships after only months' training last year. "It is easy for me to win in Asia, but I don't think I can make it happen again in the Paralympics."

"The medal hopefuls are mainly coming from Europe, but I never rule myself out of the competition. Everybody gets a chance.

"The Games were like a dream. I never thought that I could take part in the Beijing Olympics and Paralympics, but it is where I am now. I will give all out and let's see what will happen," added Zhang, who had been a worker in a factory in south China's Guangdong province.

Reigning world champion Tom Aggar of Britain is the athlete to beat in the men's singles.

The former rugby player's 2007 World Championship win -- won in a world-best time of 5 minutes 13.13 seconds -- also came in his first year of international rowing. He followed up that historic victory in June this year with a commanding win over Israel's Eli Nawa at the World Cup.

Australia's 2006 world champion Dominic Moneypenny is considered a very strong medal chance while world championship silver medallist Ron Harvey of the United States, Oleksandr Petrenko of Ukraine, Canadian Steve Daniel and Frenchman Patrick Laureau can't be discounted.

"The Canadian athletes have done a good job in the Beijing Olympics, and we are here hoping to pull off a good showing too," said Naniel.

The mixed double presents itself as one of the most open contests of the regatta with world champions Brazil and World Cup winners Poland possibly having a slight edge over the field.

The new Brazilian combination of Josiane Lima and Elton Santana and the consistent Polish team Piotr Majka/Jolanta Pawlak have considerable international experience. Both crews are full of confidence and will relish the opportunity to line up against each other at the Games.

Their main opposition is expected to come from world championship silver medallists Kathryn Ross and John Maclean of Australia, World Cup silver medallists Karen Crombie and James Roberts from Britain and World Cup bronze medallists Iryna Kyrychenko and Sergii Dereza from Ukraine.

The United States crew boast six-time world championship medallist Angela Madsen who will row with Scott Brown for the first time at a major international competition. They must also be considered a strong medal chance while the German and Israeli combinations are expected to perform well.

World champions Germany and silver medallists Britain are tipped to contest the gold medal in the mixed coxed four.

The crews saw some intriguing battles in the past two years as Britain claimed a convincing win over Germany in the World Cup, a reversal of the 2007 World Championships result.

Source:Xinhua

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