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Adaptive rowing good for the body and the soul

By: Scott Haddow – Straight Up Sports

 | Jul 03, 2014 - 9:55 AM |
An adaptive rower with the Sudbury Rowing Club, Corey Desbiens gets out for a morning rowing session on Ramsey Lake. Photo by Scott Haddow.

An adaptive rower with the Sudbury Rowing Club, Corey Desbiens gets out for a morning rowing session on Ramsey Lake. Photo by Scott Haddow.

 Delmar Garlinski has only one way to describe the feeling of rowing a boat.


“I love the freedom,” he said.

Garlinski is a member of the Sudbury Rowing Club and learned the sport through the Adaptive Rowing Program. Garlinski has a form of peripheral neuropathy, a nerve disease that affects his limbs and leaves him with limited feeling and mobility.

Garlinski's condition doesn’t stop him from doing what he wants, though. He plays wheelchair basketball and sledge hockey, too.

Rowing has only enhanced his passion to do more in life, but it also has given him purpose and passion for a new sport that challenges him to go beyond what he thinks he is capable of.

Rowing has Garlinski for life.

“I tried it and I fell for it,” the 21-year-old said. “My condition prevents me from walking down the boardwalk on Ramsey lake, but I can row down the shoreline, and in my opinion, it’s a lot better scenery.”

There is no hiding Garlinski’s enthusiasm. He readies his boat with an infectious smile. He shares laughs with other members. The returns have been remarkable for him on a personal level.

“It has changed me,” he said. “I get to push myself in a new way and it is helping to build my character and strength. It has given me a lot of confidence. It shows me I can do anything I put my mind to.”

The adaptive rowing program at the SRC began in 2007. Accessible washrooms and change room facilities, docks and three rowing machines with adaptive seats ensure everyone can take part.

The adaptive fleet consists of two training shells and two racing shells. The program is open to rowers of all disabilities, interests and skill levels, and operates Tuesday nights and Sundays from May to October.

Fun is the key. It is, in fact, the whole point.

“The impact we see the program has on people is awesome,” said Thomas Merritt, the program co-ordinator. “We get at least a dozen people on the water every year who wouldn’t be on the water. They show tremendous character each time out.”

Dan Bérubé might have been born without feet, but over the last four years, adaptive rowing has given him an opportunity to be active.

“I like it because most of my other sports are all indoors and rowing gets me outside,” he said. “Getting on the water has a calming effect on me. I’ve learned a lot about the sport and myself. I’m looking to branch into kayaking.”

Corey Desbiens was born with cerebral palsy. In his second year of rowing, Desbiens enjoys the experience of the sun on his face and wind blowing off the lake. It puts him in a positive place.

“It is quiet and peaceful on the lake,” he said. “I really like that.”

Merritt expects to get more people out on the water once the club moves into the new Northern Water Sports Centre, slated to open in 2015.

“What we are doing at the club is an extension of the good things going on in our community,” Merritt said. “There are people doing skiing and sledge hockey among other sports for people with disabilities. We can always do more.

“With the new NWSC, we will have double the space we have now. We will be able to get more people out on the water and it is exciting.”

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