The U.S. Paralympic rowing team will soon be headed to Tokyo, and some of the athletes are training in Boston.
The Community Rowing Center along the Charles River is the only national training center for rowers with disabilities.
For Hallie Smith, of Brighton, Tokyo will be her first Olympic Games.
“It’s still hitting me and I made the team back in April,” Smith said.
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Smith, who will be competing in a single boat, is paralyzed because of a genetic disorder called hereditary spastic paraplegia. The 28-year-old is also immunocompromised, which made training during the coronavirus pandemic even tougher.
“Being out before I was vaccinated did not seem like a good idea so I spent the entire 2020 season indoors,” Smith said.
The athletes know all about adapting. Adjusting the boats to better fit them is a sport in and of itself.
“Everything has to be somewhat bespoke. Even this back support was modified again a week ago to cut it down to size,” coach Ellen Mizner said.
Rowing made its Paralympic debut during the Beijing games in 2008. For Dani Hansen, who will be competing in her second Olympics, this year is not just about medals, it is about celebrating a return to normalcy.
“It just feels good to be back on track after spending so much time at home. For awhile we didn’t know if this would happen with COVID,” Hansen said.
Her boat mate Allie Reilly said they hope to have fun and make Team USA proud.
“You're pushing for yourself. You're pushing for everybody else. We just have to focus in, trust the training and get the job done,” Reilly said.
The Tokyo Paralympic Games Regatta starts Aug. 27. Some of the rowers will also be competing in the Head of the Charles Regatta in October.