The flame is lit and the postponed Paralympics have finally begun. Four days after the spectacular opening ceremony the rowers will get to take their first strokes in anger. Eight races will take place on Friday at the Sea Forest Waterway – these are the two heats for each of the four boat classes. The winner of each race progresses direct to their A-Final scheduled for Sunday, the rest will face a repechage on Saturday. Here’s a quick catch up on who the likely medal contenders are as well as those looking to upset the form guide.
PR1 Men’s single scull
Ukraine’s current world, European and Paralympic champion Roman Polianskyi comes in as red-hot favourite. Also, likely to feature on the podium is Aleksey Chuvashev the Russian athlete who took silver at the 2019 World Championships and Australia’s Erik Horrie. A former wheelchair basketball player Horrie has yet to return from a major rowing championship without a medal. The five-time world champion took silver at both London 2012 and Rio 2016. Looking to disrupt the expected storyline is Welshman Ben Pritchard – a relative newcomer to the sport the British sculler missed the medals at the 2019 World Championships finishing fourth but won a silver medal at the 2021 European Championships.
PR1 Women’s single scull
Unbeaten since her fourth-place finish at Rio 2016 Birgit Skarstein will target the gold medal at Tokyo 2020. Her talents extend far beyond the water; the Norwegian four-time rowing world champion is also a two-time winter Paralympian in the cross-country skiing events. Skarstein is well-recognised at home as the first contestant to achieve a perfect score on Norway’s television show ‘Dancing with the Stars’.
France’s Nathalie Benoit and Israel’s Moran Samuel who placed second and third respectively at the 2019 World Rowing Championships will be eyeing a spot on the podium at Tokyo but so will Ukraine’s 2021 European Championship silver medallist Anna Sheremet.
PR2 Mixed double scull
Great Britain’s golden duo of Laurence Whiteley and Lauren Rowles won this event at the Rio 2016 Paralympics and are highly favoured to defend their title at Tokyo 2020. Before rowing Rowles was a wheelchair racer and at 16 years old she was England’s youngest track and field athlete at the 2014 Commonwealth Games. Laurence and Lauren enter the Olympic regatta as current world and European champions.
The biggest threat to the British crew comes from the Dutch duo of Marinus Corné de Koning and Annika van der Meer whose new formation resulted in two consecutive world titles at the start of this Paralympic cycle. The battle for the minor medals will be fierce; the French 2021 European bronze medallists will need to hold off Poland and Ukraine if they are to feature on the podium at Tokyo 2020.
PR3 Mixed coxed four
Having won every world championship since 2011 and Paralympic gold at both London 2012 and Rio 2016, Great Britain are creating something of dynasty in this event. The Americans, who have six consecutive silver medals to the British, will hope to thwart Team GB’s campaign for a third Paralympic title.
Those most likely to be battling for the bronze medal are Italy, Ukraine and France. Italy came third at the 2019 World Rowing Championships but missed the podium at the 2021 European Rowing Championships. The current European silver medallists are France with Ukraine trailing behind them in third. Canada might be dark horses that sneak a medal – they qualified through the Final Paralympic Qualification Regatta in Givarate, Italy, and have two Rio 2016 bronze medallists onboard.