Community Rowing, Inc. Puts Emphasis on Para Rowing

At the 2017 USRowing Club National Championships, close to 200 athletes from Community Rowing Inc. filled Harsha Lake in bright red racing shells. Every athlete can find value in racing on the national level, but to a few of those sporting the CRI uni, those 2,000 meters had a greater significance.

This year, six athletes from CRI’s U.S. Para Team Selection Camp competed at Club Nationals, in preparation for the 2017 World Rowing Championships in late September. Participating as part of the development camp, Pearl Outlaw (Ithaca College) and Allie Reilly (University of Rhode Island) joined returning Paralympians, Dani Hansen (University of Washington), Jaclyn Smith (Sacred Heart University), Zachary Burns (University of Michigan) and Jenny Sichel (Bryn Mawr College) to race. These six rowers, along with other athletes in the para camp, will participate in the selection process for the PR3 (formerly LTA) mixed coxed four that will race at the 2017 World Rowing Championships in Sarasota, Florida.

According to CRI Director of Outreach, Ellen Minzner, para rowing in the United States has grown considerably, and the CRI para camp is striving to continue this expansion over the next few years in anticipation of the next Paralympic Games.

“We held a strong development camp here at CRI earlier this year and identified several new athletes with potential, but we will need to continue to build that pipeline over the next four years,” Minzner said.

Minzner also emphasized that, as the CRI para program grows, they are continuing to look for ways to reach more athletes who may qualify to compete in para rowing, even if they don’t know it yet.

“We know they are out there, we want to identify them and make sure they have the appropriate training and racing experience for success at the elite level,” she said.

To publicize the success of U.S. para rowers, Minzner and the para camp utilize large events including the Head of the Charles and the National Invitational Rowing Championships in which Inclusion racing is featured in several boat classes. These regattas help to publicize para rowing, and allow the para camp to find more eligible athletes from collegiate and club programs.

As FISA recently adjusted the official para racing distance from 1,000 meters to 2,000 meters, the PR3 group will have more opportunities to compete throughout the year. More frequent competition serves as another outlet for the growth and publicity of the para community.

All of the PR3 athletes currently row for collegiate programs or are recent graduates, making them seasoned 2k competitors. They are excited about the increased racing distance, using it as an opportunity to show the rest of the rowing world that they are capable of tackling the physical demands of a 2,000-meter race.

“I think there’s a big stigma when you say ‘para’ or ‘adaptive,’ that we can’t do the same things as other athletes,” said Jaclyn Smith of the PR3 squad. “By increasing our distance to 2,000 meters, it’s actually going to show not only rowers in America but also all over the world that we can do just as much as those who aren’t para or need adaptations.”

Every year, as the para rowing community continues to grow, athletes combat this stigma. With help from CRI’s para rowing program, more and more rowers are able to realize their full potential and achieve new levels of success.

Written by Elise Gorberg ( and Dan Brauchli (

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