Although there are eight entries in the PR1 women’s single sculls it is hard to envisage anyone other than Birgit Skarstein leaving Racice with the world title. The Norwegian’s burgeoning trophy cabinet already includes four world, two European, and one Tokyo 2020 Paralympic gold medals. At her first World Rowing race since skiing at Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games, the Norwegian legend set a new World Best Time (09:50.39) at Poznan, Poland, in the test race. Having smashed her own record in the test race Skarstein went on to win World Rowing Cup II and a few weeks later she won the Paris 2024 test event in Paris, France. Her most recent result was the successful defence of her European crown.
The closest to Skartein at Munich was the hometown favourite, Germany’s Manuela Diening. The relative newcomer surged past Tokyo 2020 runner-up Moran Samuel and Ukraine’s Anna Sheremet to claim a well-deserved European silver medal, relegating Samuel to fourth. Diening might have made her senior world championship debut last year if not for the cancellation of Shanghai. As it is, Racice will be the stage on which the European medallist delivers her first attempt at a world championship medal. At World Rowing Cup II Diening secured a bronze medal (her first world cup medal) and beat fellow German sculler Sylvia Pille-Steppat by over 16 seconds.
The pull of Paris 2024 and the prospect of a home Games is a big motivation for Tokyo 2020 bronze medallist, Nathalie Benoit. The former modern pentathlon athlete switched to Paralympic sports after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and her love of the outdoors eventually led to her Para rowing. During the Tokyo Olympiad the London 2012 silver medallist competed in the New York Marathon wheelchair division and completed an adventurous 1000+km row through France, from Paris to Marseille. Her most recent result was at 2022 World Rowing Cup II in Poznan, Poland, where she just missed the medals and came fourth.
Racice will be Brenda Sardon second senior world championships. The Argentine sculler finished seventh at Tokyo 2020 and eighth at the 2019 World Rowing Championships in Linz, Austria. The other South American sculler is more experienced and competes for Brazil. Four-time Paralympian Claudia Cicero Sabino made her international rowing debut at 2007 World Rowing Championships in Munich, Germany. The following year she raced at Beijing 2008 which was the first time rowing was featured at a Paralympic Games. She finished sixth having squeaking past Poland, just behind China, in the repechage. Her best Paralympic result came at London 2012 when she finished 0.32 seconds outside of the medals in fourth place. At 45-years-old Sabino is the oldest competitor in this event; she rarely finishes outside of the top six and has twice medalled at world championships. It will be interesting to see where her form lies at the start of her fifth consecutive Paralymiad.
A strong contender for the medals is Ukraine’s Anna Sheremet, 21, who has been racing internationally since 2017. She arrives at Racice in medal-winning form having secured European bronze at Munich. At her debut Paralympics the Ukrainian sculler finished in fourth place. The final competitor in the PR1 W1x is Uzbekistan’s Mukhayyo Abdusattarova who is set to make her debut at Racice.