Blog: Making New Ripples In Para-Rowing
Ekow Otoo and Giedre Rakauskaite share their experiences of their first Para-Rowing Development Squad camp that took place last week at Marlow Rowing Club.
Ekow Otoo, 24 years old, Trunks and Arms (TA)
I attended a sports showcase in the Olympic stadium in East London last year to try out a few different sports. At the time, I was looking for a sport to throw myself into. Before, I was doing wheelchair racing but the training was not as consistent as I would have liked.
“The feeling I got when I completed a proper stroke was so satisfying I was hooked instantly”, Ekow Otoo
That’s when I came across rowing. Hannah, who is one of the Para-Rowing Squad support staff, was eager for me to give rowing a go. She can be quite persuasive so it wasn’t long until I was sat on an ergo (rowing machine). Rowing seemed like a good sport to get into because it is so competitive and the training looked pretty intense which sort of intrigued me. I also have long arms and feel that they can finally come into good use! I fully plan to use them to take me to Tokyo 2020.
During my first training camp I got on to the water for the very first time and I fell in love with it straight away. The feeling I got when I completed a proper stroke was so satisfying I was hooked instantly. I was also introduced to a fraction of how intense the training could be but that didn’t deter me and, if anything, spurred me on to meet the challenge. I have been told that I seem to be picking up the technique rather quickly although I know I still have a lot to learn. Now that I have a real taste of what the sport is like I am confident that, with some work, I could master it and become one of, if not, the greatest!
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Everyone I met at Marlow Rowing Club was so nice; really friendly, really welcoming and patient. My coaches were especially patient with me considering I had never rowed before and the first few times I was on the water I got quite a few things wrong. But they would correct me whilst encouraging me and assuring me the mistakes I was making were things I would get past with more practice.
The most challenging aspect was waking up at ungodly hours. That, and the back breaking ergo training first thing in the morning was probably the hardest thing I had to deal with but otherwise I was having too much fun to see it as work.
The most surprising thing about the whole experience was just how much I enjoyed it. I’ve been canoeing as a child but don’t remember particularly loving it or hating it but getting out on the water in a rowing boat brought such unbridled joy. If not for my lack of fishing abilities I would have never left. I’m looking forward to the next camp in Peterborough because I’ve been told I’m going to have to race and though I’m not sure how ready I am for that, I’m quite excited for the prospect. All in all it was an amazing experience and I can’t wait for the next camp.
Giedre Rakauskaite, 25 years old, Legs, Trunks and Arms (LTA)
I came across rowing at the age of 14 in the winter season. At the time I was training in athletics.
“Even the ergo work wasn’t boring!” Giedre Rakauskaite
Rowing quickly drew me in because of how tough, competitive and complex the training is. Also, being surrounded by tall people was a great benefit. As soon as the on-water season started I was hooked.
A year later, I was in a car crash and my foot was badly damaged. I spent a year in hospitals and rehabilitation centres. I only started walking again 12 months after the accident, with crutches, but it meant I was more independent. As soon as I was back on my feet I wanted to come back to rowing. I owe it to my coach for inviting me back and not treating me any differently to others and the great support of my teammates and family.
My first rowing camp was full of new experiences. The coaching staff were very professional and supportive and most importantly they always had a smile on their faces. We learned new skills on the water and I was given an amazing strength and conditioning programme that was customised for each athlete. Even the ergo work wasn’t boring as I was introduced to new and exciting tests.
My favourite part of the camp was working in a team with fellow athletes and coaches. For me there is no better feeling than working in a crew when it finally clicks. Now I hope to take home what I have learnt and come back as an improved athlete for the next camp to win some regattas. And ultimately, win the biggest regatta every rower dreams of!