Q and A with Tom Dyson, GB’s lead para-rowing coach

After yesterday’s big European team announcement attention now turns to the para-rowing squad.

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Tom Dyson, left) GB Rowing Team lead para-rowing coach. [Mandatory Credit; Peter Spurrier/Intersport-images]

GB’s first para-rowing squad announcement of 2016 takes place on April 15th. Before that we took time to catch up with GB’s lead para-rowing coach, Tom Dyson.

You had some speed order testing at the weekend, what exactly is that and what do you and the other coaches get from this?

Speed Order Testing simply involves racing the different crews against the clock and comparing their results against a gold standard for each event. It makes it possible to rank boats of different classes.

So much of the training is done at an intensity lower than race pace, this is a real chance for us as coaches to see people at their physical and technical limits over the full race distance and to assess what is on track and what needs further work as we move towards the summer racing.

What is next on the road to Rio for you and the crews?

The next step on the road to Rio for the team is the International Para Rowing Regatta in Gavirate, Italy, that will be running alongside the final Paralympic Qualification Regatta.

It’s the first chance the rowers will have to test themselves against other nations this season but more importantly it’s a chance to blow out the cobwebs, run through their racing routines under a bit of pressure and start the more specific summer preparation.

We’re also staying on in Varese after the regatta for a training camp with the exception of Scott Meenagh who will be heading straight to Florida for the Invictus Games so it’s an exciting month ahead for the squad.

You’ve already been to Rio to see how that is shaping up.  What did you glean from that?

We took six of the squad on a recce to Rio in September 2015. It was invaluable for me and my coaching colleague Nick Baker to get an idea of the environment the team will need to perform in so we can be clear on what we’re preparing them for.

For the rowers it meant that they became clearer than ever on what they’re working towards. Rio is a stunning city and getting the chance to explore some of its charm ahead of time will certainly help the rowers focus straight in on performance delivery when they touch down in September. As an added bonus there couldn’t have been a better place to kick off the season’s training than running along the Ipanema beachfront or erging in the shadow of Christ the Redeemer.

How do you feel that para-rowing has changed since 2012?

Para Rowing has certainly taken a step up since 2012, we’ve seen World Best Times in three of the four events, and the fight for qualification places at the World Championships in Aiguebelette last season was excellent with some real depth in the A finals especially.

There has certainly been a shift of power too with the London 2012 medal table leaders, China, failing to qualify any boats for Rio so far. They will need an impressive turn around to qualify boats in Varese and follow up on their two gold medals from London.

Who are the main opposition for GB in Rio?   And can we expect a rematch of the thrilling 2015 GB v USA LTAMix4+ World final?

With the standard on show in Aiguebelette there’s no doubt that we will face tough opposition from a number of nations in the fight for medals in Rio. Australia have established themselves as the dominant force in both the ASM1x and TA2x with Israel and Norway both making huge strides to push the ASW1x event forwards.

Looking past the other medallists from Aiguebelette, there will no doubt be challengers from Brazil in all three of the sculling events and the men’s single will be a very hot prospect with Chuvashev of Russia and Haxton of the USA also very capable of stepping up on the back of their 2014 and 2015 performances.

Last year’s LTA4+(mixed coxed four) final was one of the most hard fought races we’ve seen in Para Rowing to date and the opportunity for another race with the USA can only push the sport into the limelight. But before this gets billed as a head to head I think it’s worth considering the more exciting prospect that’s offered by Canada’s potential to move up and make the rematch a three-way affair. It’s certainly safe to say that the racing in Rio will be the most thrilling any of us will have seen.

With Rio almost upon us, you must already be thinking about Tokyo. What are you doing to keep the flow of talent coming into the squad?

Yes, Tokyo will come around very quickly and one of our most important tasks this summer will be to showcase the performances of our current squad members and attract a wider group of potential rowers to the sport.

We will be looking to race more domestically this season with the LTA4+ as part of a push to highlight the fact that there will be people in clubs already who could be eligible to race in Tokyo.

Alongside this we will be looking to offer testing opportunities for anyone that sees Tokyo as a potential goal. Anyone interested should contact [email protected]

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