Roman, Gernaat Set to Represent Freedom Rows at WRIC/USRIC
By Dan Brauchli • February 21, 2019
This weekend, two Freedom Rows and national team athletes will pick up their erg handles, sit at attention, and race at the 2019 World Rowing Indoor Championships/USRowing Indoor National Championships in Long Beach, Calif. Helman Roman and Russell Gernaat, respective members of the 2016 and 2017 U.S. National Teams, are heading to Long Beach, ready to compete.
“After the (2016) Paralympics, things kind of settled down a little bit,” said Roman. “I had a torn tendon in my left arm, so it took me some time to get back into things. At the 2017 trials, I got beat. That kind of took a toll on me, and I took a little time off. Beginning of 2018, training came back, little by little. I’ve been trying to keep in shape, but now I’m taking a leap to see how I rank, especially world-wide.”
“Training and working a job simultaneously, there’s not much free time,” said Gernaat. “A race like this, you make time for. It’s previously been very hard for me to get racing opportunities at the level I’m looking for.”
As the championships will be a return to national and international competition for both Roman and Gernaat, both are eager to use the event as a gauge and, potentially, a springboard to 2019 and beyond.
“I’ve been training hard, but I’m going to try and not go in with many expectations,” Roman said. “I just want to see how I’m doing. I feel good about it, but I’m not sure about the guys I’m competing against. The ultimate goal this year is to make the national team again in the PR2 single and go to Austria.”
“It’ll be fun to jump into the international pool of athletes and see how I do,” said Gernaat. “If all goes well this weekend, it will allow me to build upon my training plan and make a good plan going into the championships this summer and even looking to 2020.”
While it may seem easy to just show up, sit down and compete on an ergometer, the road has certainly not been easy for either of these men. Freedom Rows, USRowing’s program focusing on bringing rowing to disabled military veterans and members of the armed service, provided an opportunity to both of them to train and compete on the erg and on the water.
“Any travel or competitions, Freedom Rows has always stepped up to support my travel and expenses,” said Roman. “My club has allowed me to continue to train three, four hours a day for free. The support I receive is amazing. Not only just training, travel and facilities, but this group that’s been created, it helps a lot.”
“For a long time, I had wanted to try rowing,” Gernaat continued. When I first got in with Freedom Rows at my club, I knew I had a new support group. Traveling and rowing with those guys, I always look forward to it. It’s a great option to reconnect with a group of veterans and share the sport that’s helped us all so much.”
As a program, Freedom Rows extends its reach throughout the country, but for one weekend, all eyes will be in Long Beach. From community programs, these two athletes have climbed the ranks and now aim to secure the title of national and world champion.
For more information on the 2019 World Rowing Indoor Championships/USRowing Indoor National Championships, click here.
More information on Freedom Rows and its programs can be found here.