‘More suited to people who can see’: Adaptive rowers compete Sunday

Austin

When the Texas Rowing Championships come to Austin this weekend, two of the competitors from Central Texas will have their coach riding alongside, shouting directions to keep them on track.

The championships bring together high school and adult rowers from across the state, where the teenage rowers will compete for medals and trophies. One of the divisions, racing on Sunday, is for adaptive rowers, those racers with physical or intellectual impairments.

“We’ve been training together … and analyzing each other’s technique,” 15-year-old Adhy Singh said at a practice session Saturday. “And I hope I win.”

Adhy is a student at McNeil High School in Round Rock and makes the trip at least once a week to Lady Bird Lake to train with other members of Texas Rowing for All, the adaptive rowing group that runs through the Texas Rowing Center.

“I wasn’t very excited about it,” he said, “because initially it was like a punishment thing, you know. Like, ‘You aren’t exercising enough, so you should try this.'”

“And it’s more suited to people who can see,” he added. “And so adaptive sports really don’t get the praise they deserve.”

Blind since he was 2 months old, Adhy has tried other sports for the visually impaired, but in the last year that he’s been rowing, it’s clicked for him. “It’s so much fun being on the water and getting to know your surroundings more, getting to move freely.”

For the last few months, Adhy’s been training with 14-year-old Trevor Venemon-Holt, a student at Rouse High School in Leander who’s been blind since birth. Like his teammate, Trevor makes the weekly trek to the lake.

“It seems to be working really well for me,” he said.

This weekend, Trevor and Adhy will be the only two visually impaired rowers from Texas Rowing for All to compete. That part of the program is fairly new — just about a year in, program director Tony Kuhn said.

“It makes me happy that we’re doing something that’s giving them a new outlet and something that hopefully they keep on doing for a long, long time,” Kuhn said.

Trevor and Adhy appreciate it, too. Both of them play other adaptive sports, such as goalball, which relies on players’ sense of hearing to defend goals on either end of the court from a ball with bells inside. Rowing is something new for the two competitors.

“I would row in a thunderstorm if it came to that,” Trevor said.

It’s personal for Kuhn, too, who’s legally blind himself. “And I look at them and I’m amazed that they’re doing that.”

Amazed because when they’re out on the water, they’re just rowers, just competitors, and nothing else. “Ever since Trevor joined our team, we’ve been all about racing each other,” Adhy said.

He wants more people to see the competitive side, not just in rowing but in all adaptive sports. The athletes who train hard for them deserve more recognition, he said.

“This might change in the future. I hope it changes.”

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