Para-Rowers Overcome Adversity To Secure Tokyo Berth

Victorian Institute of Sport scholarship holder Al Viney is one of 8 para-rowing athletes that will join the Australian Team for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. 

Four-time World Champion Kathryn Ross will join a handful of athletes worldwide who have raced at every Paralympic Games regatta after she was one of eight Para-rowers welcomed onto the Australian Team for Tokyo 2020 by Paralympics Australia on Monday.

Single sculler Erik Horrie, who with two silver medals is Australia’s most successful Paralympic rower to date, was also named, along with Nikki Ayers, Tom Birtwhistle, Alexandra Viney, James Talbot and coxswain Renae Domaschenz, who will race in the mixed coxed four.

“It’s definitely nice to be able to say that we’re in the Team now, to be able to celebrate a bit before we actually head off,” Ross said. “You’re in the Team, you know who your teammates are, and that’s the exciting part – working together towards the Games.

“We have some great athletes among us who have plenty of experience. We’re lucky to have that depth, along with some debutants as well, so it’s a real mix that we’re very fortunate to have.”

On becoming a four-time Paralympian, Ross said: “I’m one of only four or five rowers in the world who’s been to every Games since rowing was introduced in 2008. It’s very, very exciting. Reaching that personal goal and having that achievement is really nice.”

The achievement is amplified by the challenges the squad faced, with border closures and lockdowns heavily impacting the group.

“It’s been extremely hard for us,” Ross said. “We’re a camps-based Team, but we have people all across the country. For example, I’m in Canberra but my rowing partner’s in South Australia. Some are in Victoria, some in NSW, our doubles coach is in Queensland… We’ve really struggled to come together as a Team and train for Tokyo, but we’ve done our best.”

Australian Team Chef de Mission Kate McLoughlin said she was proud of the way the Para-rowers had stuck to the task.

“There’s nothing normal about the journey our Para-rowing Team has been on to reach this point,” McLoughlin said.

“It’s been stop-start, there have been disappointments and major hurdles along the way. Yet, they’ve done it and this squad now has the opportunity to take on the rest of the world in Tokyo. It’s a great display of character and I congratulate each member of the Team on their selection.”

Paralympics Australia Chief Executive Lynne Anderson said: “A Paralympic gold medal has proved elusive so far for Australia in Para-rowing, but I’m confident this group has the talent and the strength of character required to achieve great things when they race at Sea Forest Waterway in Tokyo in about six weeks’ time.

“I’d like to thank Rowing Australia, including Para-rowing Head Coach Gordon Marcks and his staff for their dedication in supporting these wonderful athletes to achieve their goals.”

Rowing Australia Chief Executive Ian Robson said: “The group has overcome many challenges, including a postponed Games, disrupted training and also a return trip overseas to qualify a boat late. We’re proud of how they’ve handled themselves in these unprecedented times and we know they will do us all proud on the world stage in Tokyo.

“On behalf of everyone at Rowing Australia and the wider community, I would like to congratulate the athletes on their selection, but also acknowledge the team behind the team – the coaches, support staff, family and friends who have been with them every step of the way to these Paralympic Games. Our athletes and Rowing Australia could not do it without your support.”

See all our partners

VIS is proudly supported by