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Last Updated: Monday, 18 February 2008, 18:27 GMT
GB rower building for Beijing
Paralympic rowing hopeful Tom Aggar
By Tom Aggar
British Paralympic rowing hopeful

I've always been involved in sport from a young age and up until three years ago I was playing rugby for the University of Warwick 1st XV.

However, I suffered a spinal injury in an accident in 2005 which left me paralysed from the waist down and my world was shattered.

Paralympic rowing hopeful Tom Aggar. Pic: Peter Spurrier/GB Rowing
Aggar shows his determination on the water

After my injury I was determined to stay as physically fit as I could possibly be. During my rehabilitation I came across a form of rowing called Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) rowing that uses surface electrodes to artificially stimulate the paralysed leg muscles.

From there I entered the British Indoor Championships in 2006 to compete in the FES rowing event and my eyes were opened up to the world of adaptive rowing with the prospect of being able to get out and train on the water.

I took the opportunity with both hands. Under initial coaching from Simon Goodey at the London Regatta Centre, I began training three times per week, purely for my own personal fitness and enjoyment.

I found the training was probably the most physically demanding of any sports I had explored since my injury, which I enjoyed and the sense of freedom I got was totally different from any chair-related sports.

I met other members of the GB adaptive team and began training with them with the intention of competing in the closed trials in March 2007.

I was subsequently selected to compete in the World Championships which were held in Munich last September.

From this point I had to forget about my goal to simply be selected in the trials to having a goal to compete and be competitive on the world stage.

I'm the kind of person that if I set my mind to something I want to do it to the fullest and really challenge myself.

After analysing the performances of the previous World Champs, I set myself goals and targets comparing myself against the other finalists and trained towards those goals.

With British Rowing having a strong history of success I found that the coaching and support staff for the adaptive side was equally as supportive of the athletes and just as performance-orientated.

I didn't feel much pressure coming into the Worlds, partly due to the preparation myself and the squad had going into the competition, but I was also an unknown and hadn't competed before. The only pressure I had was what I was putting myself under.

Paralympic rowing hopeful Tom Aggar. Pic: Peter Spurrier/GB Rowing
Aggar celebrates his World gold medal-winning performance

Winning the final in Munich was an incredible feeling the overwhelming feeling of relief that I had achieved my goal and all that hard work had paid off.

Since Munich, the squad has been firmly focused on the next challenge ahead, the Beijing Paralympics, which will feature rowing as a Paralympic sport for the first time.

With the squad looking to send a strong message to the opposition, the training since has stepped up to a new level with training two, three, and sometimes four, times a day.

It means being scrupulous about the other things around the training, such as diet and rest.

As part of our preparation we travelled to Hong Kong for an acclimatisation camp to experience training in the heat, climate and potential pollution we will face in Beijing in September.

In addition, we have had land based camps, training between Caversham and Bisham Abbey National Sports Centre, to centralise the squad and guarantee the quality of training.

I recently, however, experienced a small setback with training, where due to the sheer training load and intensity I suffered a rib stress injury with some cartilage damage and a torn muscle.

I was forced to rest for two weeks, building back into training with lots of handcycling.

We are currently out on a camp in Banyoles, Spain, making use of the good conditions here and I've been building back into full training looking forward to being 'race fit' for the Varese Regatta in Italy in April which will be another essential test leading up to Beijing.

Tom Aggar is among the British athletes BBC will be following as he challenges for a place on the GB rowing team at the Beijing Paralympics.

Aggar's path to success
30 Oct 07 |  Disability sport


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