And now for something completely different. You think I’m kidding? Brace yourselves. For a wilder rowing ride.
Sometimes adaptations are as simple as a scrap of well placed foam. And sometimes they are an academically designed innovation that transforms not just accessibility, but the sport itself. Usually, para sports are disability adaptions of existing sports, but “Ice Rowing” was conceived first as a sport for disabled athletes. That said, as a non-disabled athlete, it sure looks like fun to me.
- “After a series of interviews with different athletes, we started working with Millie Knight, a 2014 Paralympic Skier for Great Britain. Her visual impairment requires her to train and compete with a guide, an experience she enjoys because of the social dynamic. While she enjoys skiing with her guide, we discovered that Millie resorts to training off the slopes by rowing – a sport that exercises the entire body using a rhythmic stroke that replaces the need for a guide. Could we create a sport that maintains that social nature and allows visually impaired athletes to compete without a separate guide?”
One of the appeals of the Supported Adaptive 2x has been that it introduces the element of team work when most club level adaptive rowing has been nearly entirely in singles. The only two team events in the Winter Paralympics are Para Ice Hockey and Wheelchair Curling.
As it happens, the designer of this contraption, Sheana Yu (herself a scoliosis patient…see front seat of photo below), was at an investment symposium with me a few weeks ago. We started talking about adaptive rowing as her company Aergo has invented an impressive posture support system (with inflatable air compartments that change inflation to adjust to the user’s activity and other indicators) primarily for use in wheelchairs.
Sheena told me that they have produced two prototypes of the ice rower (adapted for testing on land) and would love to see further interest in the project so they could produce some more. I think Community Rowing should ship them over for a winter training camp on a frozen Boston-area lake in the winter (the photo below shows the road version fitted with wheels, but the vehicle was designed to be used with runners on ice). Or maybe a way to expand the Swedish pararowing community (or at least outdoor training period)?
More details about the initiative can be found here.