Marlow RC adaptive squad which includes a number of ‘transitional’ rowers
The Adaptive rowing community is the most inclusive segment of the rowing sport and the concept of a “transitional” rower might extend that even further.
What is a “Transitional” rower? For starters, it is not an official term, but just one I made up and have been using when discussing this subject (I am open to suggestions for a better label). It is someone who does not meet the classification criteria for either Pararowing or Adaptive Rowing certified impairments, but nonetheless has an impairment or other consideration affecting their ability to enjoy the sport of rowing. It expands the concept of “Adaptive” even more broadly:
- Pararowing – Refers to 3 specific classifications of impairments (PR1, PR2, PR3) that are internationally recognized by FISA for international pararowing competition.
- Adaptive – Refers to a range of further conditions and impairments that are also grouped into classifications. For example, Learning Disability is not a recognized impairment for Pararowing, but is for Adaptive rowing with specific assessment criteria.
- Transitional – Refers to a range of even further conditions which impair the ability to enjoy rowing, but are not recognized by even the Adaptive classifications. Examples include:
- Other medical conditions not included on the Adaptive classification list (eg. autism)
- Impermanent injuries and medical conditions
A number of adaptive squads have already welcomed what are really “Transitional” rowers. Stratford-upon-Avon and Guildford both have ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) athletes rowing with them on the spectrum. Marlow (see photo above) has welcomed athletes from other squads in the club who have suffered injuries and found the individualised training regime of the adaptive squad very suited to help their recovery and return to rowing. Marlow also has welcomed a junior who has a medical condition that is keeping her from being successful in the Junior squad, but can be accommodated in the Adaptive squad (but is not a condition included in the Adaptive classification list).
How do “Transitional” rower compete on a level playing field with PR and AR athletes with certified impairments? Good question. The transitional rowers from Marlow have not yet competed in official events yet. The Para/Adaptive Working Group has discussed this issue briefly. They want to expand the inclusiveness of adaptive rowing as broadly as possible, but they want to respect considerations of fair competition.
Fortunately, the format of Time Handicapping could make the issue moot. For that matter, Time Handicapping could in principle enable disabled rowers to compete head to head with fully able-bodied rowers (as long as the two times are within the 30 second maximum handicap). Another approach that the Group is discussing is the “Participant Consent” concept. Basically, an athlete who might not have a formal para or adaptive classification is allowed to compete in an adaptive event as long as the coaches of all the competitor entries positively concur to allow them to participate. The Para/Adaptive community is both tight knit and collaborative. It means that a lot of the coaches know a lot of the other athletes and coaches and so are able to offer an opinion about whether their entry would be “fair” and would produce a race that would be satisfying for all participants.