Para-team triumph at 2024 Olympic and Paralympic venue

PR3 single sculler Sam Murray shares his experience and the team’s results from the Para-Regatta to Paris last weekend

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Lauren Rowles and Gregg Stevenson boat on the Paris 2024 course

As the International Rowing scene was fixed on the World Rowing Cup III in Lucerne, Switzerland, GB Rowing’s Para team headed to France to compete at the second annual Para-Rowing Regatta to Paris.

The event took place at the Vaires-sur-Marne Nautical Stadium, which will hold the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Rowing events. It was an opportunity for many of the squad to familiarise ourselves with the venue and surroundings, as well as an opportunity for some to return to international racing. The venue itself is slowly transforming with construction underway ahead of next year’s games. This gave us a sense of anticipation from what’s to come; and certainly, added some adrenaline when racing, knowing that this could be where we’re competing for Paralympic medals next year. The weather conditions over the weekend were variable, including humid heat over 34 degrees and thunderstorms on the Sunday.

2 women in GB kit Ellen Buttrick and Charlotte Coburn

The squad of six included Benjamin Pritchard returning in the PR1 M1x in his first race since winning the bronze medal at the 2022 World Championships. Ellen Buttrick also returned to international racing in the PR3 Women’s Pair (PR3 W2-) for the first time since winning gold the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic games. She was joined by international debutant Charlotte Coburn of Molesey BC, the duo having raced at Henley Women’s Regatta back in June.

Saturday’s line up gave the opportunity for a number of crews to compete in smaller boats, Gregg Stevenson lined up in the PR2 M1x following his dominating performances at the European Championships and World Cup II with Lauren Rowles. Lauren competed in the PR2 W1x and demonstrated her class and tenacity as double Paralympic Champion, winning in style and holding off crews from other divisions.

Charlotte and Ellen were up against a number of crews including a German Men’s pair and USA Mixed double, providing the opportunity to build momentum and experience as a crew as well as demonstrate their potential ahead of this year’s World Championships in Serbia.

Para-Rowing Regatta to Paris 2023 medalAs for me, I lined up in the PR3 men’s single sculls (PR3 M1x) against my French rival Antoine Jesel, bronze medallist at Tokyo 2020. It was a tight contest with Jesel winning the heat by 1½ lengths. The final was a hard-fought race in which I passed Jesel through the 1,250m mark and managed to hold on to a length lead to win the race. This was such a great racing opportunity before I return to the PR3 Mixed Double for the World Championships later this year.

Sunday’s racing gave the opportunity for Gregg Stevenson and Lauren Rowles to continue their dominance in the PR2 Mix2x winning their heat and final race and providing the platform to build upon over the remaining season.

Benjamin Pritchard also lined up in the PR1 M1x against a competitive field. Benjamin, making his season debut after being away from the team for a few months, delivered some well controlled performances winning two bronze medals across the weekend, that will set him up well for returning to full training after the regatta.

As we closed on a solid’s weekend of racing and individual performances, we left Paris hoping the next time we return will be for next year’s Paralympic games.

If we earn slots at the games I can’t wait to see the transformation of the venue in Paralympic year into a world stage for the top Paralympic rowers to race on. We now return to our training base in Caversham with more experience and a fire in the belly to keep pushing for improvements over the coming months.

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