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Last Updated: Monday, 21 August 2006, 21:22 GMT 22:22 UK
Chasing gold
By Elizabeth Hudson

Kent rower Alastair McKean is part of the Great Britain adaptive rowing squad who will compete in this week's World Championships at Dorney Lake, Eton.

Alastair McKean. Pic: British International Rowing Office.
McKean has always been a keen rower

The 27-year-old is a key member of the mixed coxed four, who will begin the defence of the title they won last year when they compete in Thursday's heats.

Disabled rowers will also compete in the mixed double sculls and the men's and women's 'arms only' single sculls.

Here, McKean tells BBC Sport about how he got into rowing and how special it will be to compete on the World stage again.


Rowing has always been part of my life. My grandfather competed many years ago and when I was old enough I followed in his footsteps at Herne Bay Rowing Club.

I started coxing when I was eight and rowed at club level, but when I was 19 I had a motorcycle accident where I crashed into the side of a lorry and lost about 80% of the mobility in my arm.

The accident affected me a lot and it forced me to take stock of my life. I eventually contacted the Amateur Rowing Association and wondered whether there was any provision for disabled rowing.

I first made the adaptive rowing squad in 2003 and last year I won gold with the team at the World Championships in Japan.

The boat I compete in is mixed gender - two males and two females - and we have mixed abilities.

Of the others, Vicky Hansford is an amputee below the knee and there are two visually impaired rowers - Alan Crowther and Naomi Riches - who wear masks over their eyes.

For four people with varying disabilities, gender aside, to come together and row with any sort of sequence and timing is a real feat.

Adaptive rowing has given me the opportunity to re-establish myself as an athlete

Alastair McKean

Because rowing will be a Paralympic sport for the first time in Beijing, we are benefiting from a better coaching structure.

My ambition now is to win Britain's first-ever Paralympic rowing gold in 2008.

The pool of athletes available for the sport has been small, compared to others, but as there will be medals on offer in Beijing there is a target there and more people are getting involved, not just in Great Britain.

Although Britain has been lucky enough to win gold at the last three World Championships, the standards are rising worldwide each year.

From the start of the year until April, we trained every second weekend. Since then we have got together every weekend.

The 2005 crew of Alan Crowther Katie-George Dunlevy, Naomi Riches and Alastair McKean
The mixed coxed four are the defending world champions

I am a teacher and at times it has been difficult for me to get up at 5am and go training and then do a day's work and train again in the evening.

But I think it all comes down to whether you want to have a chance of winning World or Paralympic gold or not.

Hopefully next year, with some more funding, there may be a chance to teach part-time or give up teaching and become a full-time athlete.

It's an honour for me to have the chance to compete on a World stage, but it is going to be fabulous to do it on home ground this year.

All I can think about is coming to the finish line a length up and having 10,000 British fans cheering us on. It's a spine-tingling thought.

Before my accident, I never thought I would represent Great Britain, but adaptive rowing has given me so many opportunities to re-establish myself as an athlete and get my life back on track.

SEE ALSO
Rowers named for adaptive races
10 Aug 06 |  Disability Sport


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