Some people may think of rowing as a sport for tall people, but the truth is, rowing is a great sport for people of all sizes, as shown in the following race report by Mark Zembsch who brought athletes to the 33rd annual Dwarf National Games, July 4, 2022.
The 33rd Dwarf National Games organized by the Dwarf Athletic Association of America were held at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington. It was the second Games to include indoor rowing as one of the eight sports offered (the inaugural event was hosted by Marin Rowing Association as part of the 2019 San Francisco Games). A coaching session was offered by Gonzaga University coaches and rowers before the racing using their fleet of Concept2 RowErgs, as most of the athletes had limited (or no) rowing experience.
A total of 11 new world records were set in the 500m, 2000m and 1 minute events at the 2022 Games. These records were set under the PR3-GD classification (Genetic Dwarfism). The field of athletes included collegiate coxswains, accomplished scullers, and masters athletes.
Credit for bringing the sport of rowing to the Dwarf National Games goes to Eli Gelardin, Jon Morato and Mark Zembsch, all experienced rowers both on and off the water.
Mark tells us that "one reason I wanted to start Little People (LP) rowing was when I was at the World Dwarf Games in 2017, it dawned on me that the countries with the highest participation at the World Games (swimming, track, soccer, basketball, bocce, etc.) all have strong rowing (UK, Canada, Australia, Germany, France and the Dutch). Ninety-nine percent of LPs can crank on the standard Concept2 RowErg with NO adaptations. In fact, of the 75 LPs with varying body types who have rowed on the RowErg in our two events, only one needed any accommodation, and that was because his hands were too small to grip the handle. So we strapped him onto the handle with weightlifting straps!"
Here Mark introduces a few of the LP athletes:
Liam is now 19-years-old and is the pioneer LP rower on the RowErg (he has been cranking on the RowErg since at least 2012). He holds the overall world's best time for 2k (7:54.1) and won the 2020 C.R.A.S.H.-B./USRowing Championship. Notably, Liam is an accomplished sculler, and a coxswain on the University of Wisconsin men's rowing team. Liam has been a huge asset in spreading the word about LP rowing, and has a keen interest in helping develop on water rowing for LPs.
Dianna, 66-years-old, is a competitive swimmer, and rowed for the first time at the Spokane 2022 Games. She took to the RowErg immediately, and set three world records (1 minute; 500m and 2k). She's extremely enthusiastic about her new sport, and would love to see other competitive LP masters athletes pick it up.
Eli is one of the co-founders (along with Jon Morato and Mark Zembsch) of this effort to bring rowing to the LP community. He holds the men's masters' 2k record at 8:41.9, and won the 2020 C.R.A.S.H.-B./USRowing Championship. Significantly, Eli is believed to be the first LP to row in a competitive on water race, when he raced in the double sculls at the 2021 Head Of The Charles Regatta®, partnered with his octogenarian father.
Emily's 2:47.7 500m is the best-ever women's time for any age group. Emily coxes for the University of Central Oklahoma women's team, and is always the first to volunteer in any capacity to promote LP rowing.
Jon is also one of the co-founders of the LP rowing effort. He and Eli have rowed a 2x out of Marin Rowing Association, and he competed at both the 2019 SF Dwarf National Games and the 2020 C.R.A.S.H.-B./USRowing Championship.
What’s Next for LP Rowing?
The athletes are already anticipating the 2023 indoor event, which will be co-hosted by the University of Texas Women’s NCAA Champions and Austin Rowing Club. Everyone looks forward to returning to on water rowing as well. The 2023 World Dwarf Games will be held in Germany, and the following Games will be in Australia in 2027. This is where Mark hopes to see LP rowing make its debut on the international stage.
Interested in learning more? Mark welcomes questions and suggestions via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.