Para-rowers join the Irish team at World Cup II

The 2017 World Rowing Cup series heads to Lake Malta near Poznan in Poland tomorrow for the second of three regattas in the series. Almost 500 athletes will compete from 39 countries with several, including Australia, China and New Zealand, on the international scene a first time this season.

The World Rowing Cup series comprises three events, with the overall World Rowing Cup winners determined after the third. The final leg takes place in Lucerne, Switzerland from July 7-9.

The 2016 Olympic gold and silver medallists from the lightweight men’s double sculls will race each other again. France’s Jeremie Azou and Pierre Houin met Ireland’s O’Donovan brothers last month at the European Championships with the Olympic order unchanged. Both these talented crews will race strong opposition from Poland and Great Britain.

The rest of the Irish team is similar to both World Cup I and the European Championships, but with three additional athletes now included. Aifric Keogh of UCC and Aileen Crowley of UCD come together to compete in a women’s pair, having received the go-ahead by coach Sean Casey just last week, while Monika Dukarska of Killorglin Rowing Club races in the women’s single, alongside Sanita Puspure (Old Collegians).

European Champions Mark O’Donovan and Shane O’Driscoll will again compete in the men’s pair, and the small entry in the event all but guarantees another medal-winning performance if the Skibbereen pair continue their recent form.

Clubmate Denise Walsh returns to race in the lightweight women’s single, hoping to add to her 2017 medal tally following a superb performance last month, earning European silver. Coaches Sean Casey and Dominic Casey will spearhead the Irish assault in Poznan, and are confident in the team’s ability as a whole.

Ireland will also be sending three para-athletes to Poznan, for classification purposes only, with a view to building a team for the 2018 season; Marianne Watchorn (Trinity), Aaron Stokes (Castleconnell) and Damien Dulea from Quintin RC in London, originally from Cork, will all travel to the World Cup II venue to determine their competitive classes and training can then begin.

Para-rowing is divided into five boat classes: LTAMix4+ (legs, trunk and arms mixed coxed four), LTAMix2X (legs, trunk and arms mixed double sculls), TAMix2x (trunk and arms mixed double sculls), ASW1x (arms and shoulders women’s single sculls), and ASM1x (arms and shoulders men’s single sculls). The LTA and TA are mixed gender boats.

Races used to be held over 1000 metres for all five events. However, Poznan will be the first World Rowing event where para-rowing is raced at 2,000 metres, following the decision taken at the FISA Extraordinary Congress last February in Tokyo.

Domestically there are two events taking place over the weekend. Athlone Regatta and Galway Regatta will run on Saturday and Sunday, with 361 and 182 crew entries, respectively. Athlone Regatta is a semi-status event, meaning an athlete that wins here will gain 50 points to their Rowing Ireland Rowers Score (RS), as opposed to 100 points in a full-status event, or zero in a non-status event such as Galway.

These points determine what category a rower competes in as their rowing career progresses. Over nine hours of racing is scheduled for the Athlone Regatta and 30 clubs from around the country will travel to Coosan Point, Athlone on Saturday, many of whom will be gearing up for one of the biggest domestic events of the year, Cork Regatta at the National Rowing Centre, the following weekend.

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