Questions and Answers by Angela
Rowing Classification question: I thought they would have separated by classes like in basketball?
We do have separation by classes however there are only three classifications for the sport of adaptive rowing. The physical differences for functional ability in the sport within those three are huge.
Adaptive rowing is a relatively new sport at the elite international level so the lines of classification shift to accommodate more people to help the sport grow plus
with only 4 events where do you draw the lines? Currently we have
W1X arms only women's single scull (no body swing, back, abdominal or leg)
M1X arms only men's single scull (no body swing, back, abdominal or leg)
TA2X trunk and arms mixed gender double scull (uses body swing, abdominal and back muscles)
LTA 4+ leg trunk and arms mixed gender, sliding seat, sweep rowing. The + is the coxswain or person in the boat who steers and verbally instructs the four people who are physically rowing the boat. The coxswain does not have a disability.
The 1X and 2X sculls are fixed seat for people who can't use their legs. In sculling each individual rower has both a port and starboard oar.
In 4+sweep rowing each rower has one oar and is either a port or a starboard. It is also referred to as crew.
As you can see there are only 3 classifications and 4 rowing events. We actually need more of both for fair competitions. I speculate at this point that if we had more of both, countries and coaches would just flood the events with more minimal disabled athletes just to win the medals leaving behind those that the sport/event was designed for. Until the lines of classification are etched in stone rather than being drawn in the sand, this is what I see happening.
I understand the need to accommodate to bring more athletes into the sport. So accommodate away with additional events and classifications! Now it is time to move on to the next level. I understand how we got where we are and its relationship to where we need to go in the future. Like most competitive athletes, I would prefer to compete against equals and similar levels of ability and to push myself harder than to have it be the other way around. I want to earn it! I think most athletes would agree. Personally, I want to do well because I have worked and trained hard not because I have a physical advantage in classification. I don't want to race against people who cannot place pressure on the foot plates nor do I want to race against those who can push on foot plates in the fixed seat boat. It is an all out 1000 meter sprint and winning can be determined by as little as a tenth of a second. Classification plays a big part and is sometimes referred to by our athletes as our first competition. There will be a significant difference between no pressure on the footplates, withstanding pressure and static load on footplates and actually pushing on footplates in all of the fixed seat categories. This is more evident in the single boat than the double because the two people in the double have differences. 2 people in a double who can push on the footplates will be faster than a boat where only one can push and one can just place pressure of static load. People in the sport who can place no pressure or bear no static load will be eliminated and have no opportunity to compete at the elite level of this sport. The addition of new straps to try and limit movement will only limit movement and will not inhibit the bodies neuromuscular response to static load.
As a retiring athlete it is no longer an issue that effects me however to continue as a coach, I too will have to seek out minimum disability athletes for elite competitive opportunities in the sport. We will all have to go for the highest level in classification and push to extend the lines of classification if we want to win medals. This is the growth of Adaptive rowing as I have witnessed it and experienced it since our first World Championships in 2002. This is what will be required of me as a coach and an adaptive program director. Maybe its the military training and not leaving anyone behind attitude that makes all this so difficult for me. I want to provide the opportunity to all levels of ability and not be part of the problem or responsible for taking those opportunities away from anyone based on the classification system. It is time to expand and change would probably require rattling some cages or making some waves. Some may not be happy with where they are when the lines are drawn and balance is achieved.
Where would you be if we were to expand events and classifications If you were not retiring? I would have loved to have rowed in a TA 1X against the other women rather than a double. With the rods in my back and doctors orders of no more TA rowing, I could go arms only legitimately but I would love to enter an LTA W1X with my braces on. I already tried to move up to LTA trying out for the 4+ but the rods in my back prevented me from achieving the body angle for sweep rowing. They also would not allow me to wear my orthodics in the boat. Without my braces my feet drop and turn sideways or pray. As soon as static load is applied my knees are out and I am on the sides of my feet which could cause injury if there is enough pressure. It was a good experience as a coach, I learned a great deal and realized that as much as I don't like to admit it, I am too physically limited by my disability to sweep row in a crew boat. In a single, matching doesn't matter, in sculling the torso does not rotate and I may get half slide if I can keep my braces on. I think I can and I prefer to try and move up rather than down in classification. Going against other women arms only rowers with my size, reach and strength would just not feel right to me. No offense meant to any women's single arms only rowers out there.
Are you retiring from the sport completely? it depends. Can I make a difference? or will I just have to go with the flow to stay in the game. I am more of a make waves type person and not much for going with the flow, unless the flow is headed towards a common goal and doesn't challenge me morally, ethically and spiritually. Some may think, we are here and this is it. Don't change a thing. Don,t make waves, be complacent and happy with where you are. I am not so sure I could go with the flow if that is where we are truly at in adaptive rowing. I could only agree that being where we are now and what we have been able to achieve is great ( If we were complacent we wouldn't be here). I also believe we are just getting started and there is a lot more that needs to be done.
My ambition would involve change. Adding more classifications and more events and to define and defend the lines of classification to ensure equal opportunity and fair play. This is not something I can do by myself and requires cooperation and effort from everyone involved in the sport. From the athletes and coaches to the international governing body of our sport. If adaptive rowing is going to be sedentary then I don't see the point in offering a continued commitment to its developement.
I made a commitment in 1998 to help develop the sport, a commitment in 2002 to my national adaptive rowing team and to my rowing partner to see this sport and him through the 2008 Paralympics. Its been a wonderful experience with many ups and downs. Having fulfilled my commitment to the best of my abilities. I am now free to move on. I am now available and can now continue to assist in the advancement of the sport of adaptive rowing at another level having all of the experiences of an elite athlete, an adaptive rowing program founder and director and a level III coach or (jokingly) I could retire completely from the sport of adaptive rowing and take up Frisbee golf.
I just love Q&A got any more for me?
keep the questions coming,