Pathways for the Paralympics 2024/2028

summarized by David DeWinter
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Jenny Sichel – Paralympic Silver Medalist and Coach
Tom Siddall – Assistant Coach of Men’s Rowing, Tufts University
Ellen Minzner – Director of Para High Performance, USRowing

The 3-Sentence Summary

US Para-Rowing needs help from coaches across the country to build up the pipeline of eligible athletes for the Para-Rowing National Team. Moving forward, there will be two pathways for athletes to join: one for sliding-seat rowing (PR3) and one for fixed-seat rowing (PR1/PR2). Many PR3-eligible rowers will continue to come from high-school and collegiate programs, while USRowing will need to look more broadly to find and recruit athletes for PR1 and PR2 events.



0:23 Goal of today’s talk: create clarity around how to engage with para-rowing.

0:43 Introductions

  • Tom: US Para Rowing Coach Liaison
  • Jenny: PR3 coxswain in Tokyo and PR1 W1x coach in Tokyo
    • Silver medalist in Rio
    • Goal: make PR1/PR2 rowing very competitive in the United States

4:12 We need help to move para-rowing forward. Our job is to make it easy to engage with us and the Paralympic Pipeline.

Looking Back

5:23 Changes since Rio:

  • Para-rowing distance changed from 1k to 2k
  • World Champs para-rowing added 4 events
  • Paralympics para-rowing has added 1 event (PR3 Mx2x)
  • US Para-Rowing has earned 8 medals: 7 in PR3 and 1 in PR1.
    • PR3 athletes are generally sourced from the US high school and college system. We need to create a similar pipeline for fixed seat rowing.

Looking Ahead – Sliding-Seat Rowing

8:25 The PR3 pipeline will remain the same moving forward. However, we want to make sure collegiate and club coaches are aware of the para-rowing national team system, so they can refer athletes and have more interaction with the staff of the USRowing Para High Performance team. The involvement of your athlete in a Paralympic program should not interfere with your goals of a youth or collegiate championship.

Selection for PR3 will not interfere with the collegiate system for the foreseeable future.

Looking Ahead – Fixed-Seat Rowing

12:54 PR1 and PR2 pathways

  • Developing opportunities for athletes to compete at the college level
  • Club adaptive programs
  • Indoor competitions
  • Emphasize our multi-sport para events. Lots of crossover (rowing to canoe/kayak)

17:26 Sometimes PR1/PR2 athletes won’t have coaches, so we’ll do our best to connect them with resources in their local community for rowing.

17:59 Clubs looking to start para programs: multisport organizations can help you with the knowledge and potentially sourcing athletes.

18:54 We do also want to invite PR1/PR2 coaches to observe and coach at high-performance camps.

Different Pathways

21:56 (Jenny) Fixed Seat (PR1/PR2) vs Sliding Seat (PR3): why 2 pathways?

Fixed Seat (PR1, PR2) Sliding Seat (PR3)
6 – 12 mos. to become competitive 2 – 4 years
Longer to optimize equipment, no cookie cutter solutions (2 – 4 months) Minimal/straightforward customizations
More land time or balanced between land and water More water time needed for team coordination
Numerous barriers to get to the boathouse and get in the boat Athletes generally reach competitive standards without trouble

28:39  Coaching considerations for PR1/PR2:

  • How an athlete sets up for racing may not be the same as how they set up for training.
  • It’s so easy to overtrain or further injure muscles.
  • Mental health and comorbidities affect rowing consistency. You have to be aware of them.
  • Athletes sometimes sweat less and are more prone to heat or cold. (Ask!)
  • Push limits but don’t overstep–listen to the athlete and adapt with them.

Coach Liaison

38:14 (Tom) The Liaison Role

  • Listens, helps, and advocates for the athletes without being involved in selection
  • Runs the training program (Training Peaks)
    • Tracking training zones and recovery (training/life balance)
  • Manages physiology testing (lactate), strength training, etc.
    • Look back at similar workouts for trends


43:45 Para Coach and Athlete Resources

  • USRowing Para Newsletter (Quarterly, beginning in Jan 2022)
  • Baseline Metrics Form
  • Event Calendars
  • PT Screening Protocol
  • Para National Team Results Form
  • National Team Training Plan
  • Qualify for Direct Athlete Support (DAS)

49:26 Goals for 2024

  • Increase para-knowledgeable coaches who can refer athletes into the pipeline.
  • Create clear pathways for athletes and coaches to engage with us early in the athlete’s career.
  • Identify athletes now with the potential to remain in the system through 2028.
  • Increase the number of athletes competing in domestic events (PR1 and PR2 especially).
  • Develop and improve systems of athlete metrics/data collection to guide our training.
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