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Last Updated: Sunday, 27 August 2006, 13:55 GMT 14:55 UK
Sports all-rounder
By John Haughey
BBC Sport

Karen Cromie
Karen has played in two Paralympic basketball World Cups
Medal contenders Alan Campbell, Richard Archibald and Richard Chambers were not the only Northern Ireland hopefuls competing in this week's World Rowing Championships.

Fermanagh woman Karen Cromie was in the nine-strong British team participating in the Adaptive Rowing events for disabled competitors in Eton.

Prior to this week, British wheelchair basketball international Karen had never raced in a competitive regatta.

Therefore, she was understandably nervous when she lined up in Friday's heat with partner James Roberts in the trunk and arms double sculls.

However, the British pair performed creditably to take second place in the heat behind the favourites the USA.

Karen and James were back in action in the repechage on Saturday and their second place finish behind Greece was enough to earn a place in Sunday's final.

The British pair had to settle for sixth place in the decider but they can look back with pride on their efforts this week.

Karen suffered a spinal cord injury in an accident at home in 2002.

While getting treatment at Musgrave Park Hospital in Belfast, she was introduced to wheelchair basketball by staff members and within a year, she had earned a spot in the Great Britain squad.

"There's no point in looking back. I've had so many opportunities and I've just tried to take up as many as I've can," Karen told BBC Sport.

"Things have worked out well. I've got my degree now. I played for GB basketball.

I'll be a bit nervous but we have been training hard and doing a lot of water work

Karen Cromie

"Adaptive rowing is a newer sport. It has only been going a few years. I'm always up for a new challenge and I'm really enjoying it."

It was her British basketball team-mate Helene Raynsford who suggested that Karen should follow her in attempting to make the switch to adaptive rowing.

"Helene, who is an arms only athlete, let me know about the rowing and I wanted to give it a go as well.

"After that, it all happened quite quickly once the basketball season finished this year.

"I was asked to attend a training camp in London and got selected a few weeks after that."

Little more than three months on and Karen's first ever international regatta was this week's World Championships.

Roberts, her partner in the mixed trunk and double scull, also made his international rowing debut.

"I met James only four weeks ago so we've not been training long together but he's been rowing a bit longer than me."

I'm planning to come home in September and train with the Knights

Karen Cromie

A successful championships will leave Karen with the poser of having to decide which sport she should aim to compete in at the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing.

Karen, who plays wheelchair club basketball for the Knights in Belfast, is still an integral member of the British squad and as she points out, "you can't go the the Paralympics in two sports".

The Ballinamallard woman graduated last month with a degree in Occupational Therapy from Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh.

Her rowing commitments this summer have meant that the job-hunting is on-hold but Karen plans to get "stuck into the application forms again in September".

"I'm planning to come home in September and train with the Knights.

"Hopefully I'll be able to do a lot of stuff at the Institute of Sport at Jordanstown. I'll continue with rowing during the winter although it won't be as enjoyable as it is in the summer."

However, this week all her attentions have been focused on rowing.

Her proud parents Alec and Joy and sister Lynne travelled to Eton to cheer her on.

SEE ALSO
Rowers named for adaptive races
10 Aug 06 |  Disability Sport
Team GB select squad for Worlds
14 Jul 06 |  Rowing
Adaptive four claim World glory
04 Sep 05 |  Disability Sport


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