‘I’ve set the goal to ‘become a rower’ rather than someone who’s learning how to row’

Para-rower Ben Pritchard has represented Wales at the Home International Regatta and has now set his sights on reaching the standard to be selected for GB


Ben Pritchard at the Home International Regatta (photo: Ken Pritchard)

At what point do you transition from learning to row to being a rower? Para-rowing Development Programme member Ben Pritchard hopes that day will be soon, just over six months after taking to the water for the first time.

Ben suffered severe back injuries in a cycling crash in 2016, but during his time as a patient at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, the Welshman discovered a new passion for rowing.

Sessions on the rowing machine at the hospital with British Rowing’s Para development staff turned into paddles on the water in a specially adapted boat.

Now, Ben has pulled on a Welsh national jersey at the Home International Regatta and purchased, with the help of Welsh Rowing, the boat of Paralympic champion Tom Aggar.

But he’s not easing up now – he’s already targeting the November trials for the GB Rowing Team as well as challenging himself to continue getting stronger and faster.

“The next step is for me to close the gap between myself and [training partner] Kingsley [Ijoma], and then [Paralympic Programme rower] Andy [Houghton],” he said.

“At my first race in April, Andy was a minute and a half ahead of me, and Kingsley was 35 seconds. I got that down to four seconds and now I’ve just got to close the gap to Andy. So November Trials is my next major goal.

“I also set the goal to ‘become a rower’ rather than someone who’s learning how to row. I’m still learning about the sport and the races, so the goal in this first year is to enjoy learning a new sport and from then on it will all be performance-based goals.”

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Working full time at RKH Speciality insurance brokers in London, Ben is having to fit his increasing training schedule around his work commitments. But thanks to his employers’ flexibility, he can train on the water four days a week and continue his strength and conditioning sessions in his spare time.

“[My employers] have been really good, giving me Monday and Friday mornings off to train,” Ben added. “My plan was to originally train at Caversham, but Dan Cooper at Twickenham RC has kindly taken me on to his World Class Start programme, so I’ll be doing double sessions there on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday. The other days it’s more about gym and flexibility work.

“The training balance is good. Having the two mornings off work it means I’m condensing my training into a four-day period and that works quite well. I’d go to the gym during the week anyway to de-stress from work, so going there to do my strength session isn’t a challenge.

“The flexibility work is something I’ve always done as a triathlete, and it’s only an hour a day and that’s something that completely relaxes you before or after work. I did worry that when I didn’t have the two days off that the workload and training wouldn’t be possible.

“But I think rowing is the only sport where you hammer the highest training load as possible and then the strongest and fittest make it.”

Ben is part of the British Rowing Para-rowing Development Programme. The Para-rowing coaches are actively looking for new people to join the programme as they look to Tokyo 2020 Paralympics and beyond. If you want to redefine your limits and find out more about the Para-rowing squad then click here.