Freedom Rows Celebrates Fourth Year at San Diego Crew Classic
By Dan Brauchli • March 27, 2018
San Diego, Calif. – Now in its fourth year, the “Freedom Race” at the San Diego Crew Classic was a highlight for competitors and spectators alike. Eighteen Freedom Rows athletes raced side-by-side in celebration of what the program continues to provide to our military veterans.
Freedom Rows is a program offered by USRowing to promote the opportunities and benefits gained from the sport of rowing to disabled military veterans and members of the armed forces.
The primary goals of Freedom Rows are to increase the number of disabled veterans participating and competing in adaptive and para-rowing categories; to provide expert training and technical assistance in adaptive rowing to VA adaptive sports program managers, community rowing coaches, instructors, and VA recreational therapists; and finally, to provide outreach coordination, Paralympic classification of athletes, FISA-certified training of classifiers, adaptive rowing program development, adaptive rowing equipment, evaluation, and other activities related to the implementation and operation of the program.
From recreational rowing at VA sports facilities and local clubs to competing in the Paralympics, the sport of rowing continues to provide a powerful bridge between military veterans and their communities.
Among the participants in the 2018 Freedom Race was Russell Gernaat, a member of the 2017 United States National Team who competed at the 2017 World Rowing Championships in Sarasota-Bradenton, Fla. Gernaat placed fifth in the PR3 mixed double sculls at the championships and credits the Freedom Rows program with his introduction into the sport.
“I had always had a particular interest in rowing for a long time but never really previously had the opportunity,” said Gernaat. “So one day, I called down to the boathouse in Redwood City, and they invited me down to check out their boathouse and their program. After finding out that I had previously served in the United States Navy, they told me about this program called ‘Freedom Rows.’ They were able to help me get started in training and got me on the water a few times a week to start off.”
Gernaat took a natural liking to the sport and was able to establish that training for international competition was something he was very interested in.
“I was at the San Diego Crew Classic last year with a goal to someday compete and represent Team USA,” he said. “I was able to do that this past October in Sarasota and to be back here again is just great. To see the support that the Crew Classic has for the veterans is wonderful!”