BY CONNOR WALTERS
VIDEO BY ADAM REIST
For several years now, single scullers in the elite and para-rowing worlds have had a little extra incentive for training and competing in select singles races—cash prizes, to be exact. The notion from the get-go was to raise the profile of competitive sculling and thereby increase the pool of racers in the United States, using a monetary prize to offset training and travel costs.
The Blackwall Duling Challenge was launched in 2019 with $20,000 in prizes awarded across the top men’s and women’s arms-and-shoulders scullers. This year, the two-race competition will begin with the second round of U.S. Olympic and Paralympic trials in April, with the four top finishers advancing to compete in the Gold Cup event at the Head of the Schuylkill in October.
“This race will inspire the next generation of Paralympic hopefuls to continue to train and compete at the highest international levels,” said Ellen Minzner, USRowing’s para high performance director.
A larger change is set for the Lotman Challenge this year, which previously was based on points accumulated across a triad of regattas. This year, the first Olympic trials will award the top six finishers with the opportunity to advance to round two; two more men and women will also advance out of the USRowing National Championships. Round two is the Head of the Charles, and the top four men and women in the championship single will advance to the final contest: a 750-meter sprint on the Cooper River in Camden, New Jersey. The finishing order at that final race will determine the prizes, with each winner claiming $8,000.
After competing in the inaugural Blackwall Duling Challenge para-rowing event in 2019, U.S. PR1 sculler Hallie Smith said, “I think it’s huge that they’ve brought a PR1 event into something as big as the Gold Cup, and by having it with a cash prize it really shows the legitimacy of our sport and our hard work.”