While the latest pararowing stars from Tokyo are getting all of the press lately, AdaptiveRowingUK was privileged to get an exclusive interview with Rob Holliday, one of UK’s pararowing pioneers. Rob rowed for GB through 2005 years before pararowing had even been added to the Paralympics. Rob came down to Marlow RC for an outing with Naomi Riches (London 2021 PR3 Olympic Champion) where he was able to see how much the sport had evolved since he first competed winning silver in the first ever World Pararowing Championships in 2003. For starters, he was able to row in a crew boat for the first in his career while most adaptive rowers consider crew rowing (especially in Supported Doubles) to be standard practice.
- How did you get introduced to rowing? – I started when I was 12 years old at Crypt Grammar School in Gloucester. We did ok getting to J16 and J18 National Championships finals, amongst others. Following a car accident, I was a guinea pig for Reading University Department of Cybernetics. Rowing a full sliding sear Ergo using electrodes. Professor Brian introduced me to Simon Goodey. So by luck became the first GB PR1 para rower.
- What is your impairment? – T2 complete spinal cord injury.
- What was the moment you remember most fondly about your international rowing career? – The world championships at Banyoles, Spain in 2004. After a long delay at the start in the hottest part of the day, I was last at half way, but got up to beat USA and Canada for the Silver in a photo finish.
- What was the biggest misconception you faced pararowing in the early 2000s? – The boat. No reason why we can’t row a fine boat instead of these flat bottom tubs. Second misconception that it’s difficult to have an adaptive section at a grass roots level club.
- What was the highlight of the Tokyo Paralympic Regatta for you? – The different styles between the winner on the men’s and women’s PR1 singles finals. The lady from Finland really swinging her upper body versus a more upright style. Always interested in the classification of PR1.
- What are some of the biggest changes in para sport that you see over the past couple of decades? – The high profile elite athletes have caught the imagination of the public and shifted perception to what disabled people can do instead of what they can’t. Still a lot more to do at grass roots level in rowing and athletics.
- ·You recently went for an outing in a double. Was that your first time in a double? What was different about the rowing experience? – Yes it was. Having to think about someone else and keeping rhythm and synchronisation with them. Instead if just doing my own thing in a single. Naomi is brilliant though and compensated for my short comings.