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Page last updated at 15:16 GMT, Friday, 29 August 2008 16:16 UK

Riches inspired by Olympic crews

Paralympic rower Naomi Riches
Riches has been fired by the efforts of GB's rowing Olympians

Paralympic rower Naomi Riches is hoping to emulate the success of the Olympic crews when the regatta gets underway on 9 September.

The 25-year-old, who has already won three World Championship gold medals, says she has been motivated by what Team GB's rowers achieved in Beijing.

She told BBC Radio Berkshire: "It's been an inspiration.

"We just want to follow their lead and make the country as proud of us as everyone is of them."

She added: "It's a little bit overwhelming, but at the same time I feel extremely proud to be able to go out there and represent my country."

Riches, who rows for Marlow, feels that the Paralympics are beginning to get the coverage they deserve.

"I think because the standard is getting higher and higher in all sports across the board, people are showing more interest.

"They don't see it as disabled people playing sport anymore, they see it as athletes competing who happen to be disabled.

It's a little bit overwhelming, but at the same time I feel extremely proud to be able to go out there and represent my country

Naomi Riches

"I think things are changing and so the attention's going to get more and more, and we're going to get as much credit as the Olympians."

A B3 category competitor, Riches now rows as one of two visually impaired athletes in her crew after FISA (the international rowing federation) implemented several rule changes.

"The international governing body had to cut down some of the rules and make it more specific.

"In 2004 we went out to Banyoles [for the World Championships] and we had four visually impaired athletes in the boat - that's four people who are fully able bodied - and that's a bit of an advantage over countries that had crews with, say, three amputees in the boat.

"You're only allowed maximum of two visually impaired athletes in the boat, and only one of them is allowed to be B3 which is the most sighted of the three categories - there's B1, B2 and B3."

And although Beijing is foremost in Riches's mind, she is nevertheless excited about potentially competing at Dorney Lake in the London 2012 games.

"It will be brilliant. We had the World Championships there in 2006 and the atmosphere was electric, we had an absolutely fantastic time."



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