As USRowing's Freedom Rows initiative continues to grow in cities across the country, more and more U.S. veterans are participating in the sport. At the 2016 C.R.A.S.H.-B Sprints, World Indoor Rowing Championships in Boston on February 28, a team of, recovering, injured vets will be racing along with 2,300 athletes from around the world for the first time in the event's history.
Most everyone that races at the C.R.A.S.H.-B Sprints, World Indoor Rowing Championships
, has a pretty good idea of what to expect.
That won’t be true for a select group of athletes that will be racing for the very first time at the annual, grueling event on Sunday at Boston University’s Agganis Arena. A contingent representing USRowing's Freedom Rows initiative – a U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs funded program, designed to introduce injured former U.S. service members to the sport of rowing – will be among the thousands competing.
“We’re extremely excited about this,” said Deb Arenberg, USRowing Adaptive Programs Development Specialist.
“This is a culmination of the efforts of our team leaders in our partnership programs who have been working with our athletes for over a year to prepare them for this event. For a couple of these athletes, this will be the first time they have ever participated in an athletic event.”
Among the Freedom Rows participants are representatives from programs across the country including members of the Denver, Colo., VA/Longmont Rowing Club, East Bay Rowing/Providence R.I. VA, the Durham Raleigh Crew/Durham, N.C. VA, and MedStar NRH from Washington D.C., which will be represented by 2013 U.S. national team arms and shoulders single sculler Daniel Ahr
“These are all injured veterans who represent a wide range of disabilities, from folks who have injured limbs and others who use wheelchairs, to others who have visual impairment,” Arenberg said. “It’s going to be a good group.”
Freedom Rows represents a growing involvement of adaptive athletes in rowing. According to Arenberg, there are a total of 89 adaptive athletes registered to race at C.R.A.S.H.-B. “It’s a record number,” she said.
Launched in 2014, the Freedom Rows
program is now partnered with 18 rowing and VA rehabilitation organizations across the country. This particular group’s involvement at the Boston event is a precursor to the San Diego Crew Classic
. Some 22 Freedom Rows athletes will participate in eights at what is known as spring's premiere regatta April 2-3.
With all the scheduled events, the 2016 edition of the C.R.A.S.H.–B. Sprints is going to another action packed day. Racing is scheduled to run all day and before it is all finished, more than 2,300 athletes of all ages and abilities with have capped off months of training with what they hope is their best erg effort of the season.
While many of the elite international athletes who might normally come to compete will be too busy this year with Olympic preparation, the field will be filled with collegiate and junior competitors.
One of the largest fields will be the junior divisions. As of the close of registration, there are close to 1,000 juniors entered.
"We're really looking forward to this year's C.R.A.S.H.- B. Indoor World Rowing Championships and watching athletes from 441 clubs around the world competing for the coveted Hammer. Sunday is going to be an exciting day with some fast, fun racing,” said event official Amanda Milad.
“Despite the ergometer's often painful reputation, this is always a great event for athletes to reconnect mid-winter and look forward to spring and summer racing, as well as connecting indoor-only rowers with the water-loving crowd."
Click here for more information on Freedom Rows
For a 2016 C.R.A.S.H.-B. Sprints schedule, visit http://usrow.us/1TI6kto
for a photo gallery from last year.