October 21-22, 2017 Athletes Without Limits (AWL) participated in the Head of the Charles Regatta (HOCR), hosted at the Charles River in Boston, Massachusetts. Since its inception in 1965, the HOCR has brought in hundreds of thousands of rowers and grown to be the largest regatta in the world.
Our rowers participated in the Mixed Inclusion 2x event which had an international attendance, including the Austrian team. 15 boats were selected through the draw, and AWL DC got two of our three entries selected. This was the first year that athletes with intellectual disability were allowed to enter and AWL’s participation in the Regatta was a strong statement to prove they can both compete and demonstrate proper safety at the highest level. The race had a very diverse pool of participants, with 15 entries ranging from intellectually disabled, visually impaired, and physically disabled. At least 4 of the 15 boats had athletes with intellectual impairment.
AWL’s A boat consisting of rowers Justin Boatner and Josh Martini climbed through the field from Bow #9 and ended in Silver Medal placement with a time of 20 minutes and 22.531 seconds. They were only topped by Austria’s national team boat, who had just placed 4th at the World Rowing Championships a few weeks prior, by less than a second. Rowers Daniel Voigtsberger and Jessie Garcia in the B boat also placed strong at 11th of 15.
If there ever was a question of whether athletes with intellectual impairment can integrate into elite level rowing, that was answered this weekend at the Charles. We are grateful for the opportunity from the Head of the Charles steering committee to expand for total inclusion and hope that next year there will be even more spots in the regatta for adaptive events as AWL has 12 eager athletes who would all like the chance to shine.