Monday Meet the Rowers


Nikolai’s final days sculling with pontoons

LTA Rower

Joined 2013

I was born very early – at 24 weeks and spent six months in intensive care with

several operations and chronic lung disease. I went home with supplementary

oxygen (which I used for a year) and over the next 18 years of all sorts of remedial

treatments, was told by several doctors and specialists that I probably would not

be able to walk/talk/write/be a sportsman or hear. I’m glad to report that I have

proved most of these people wrong, though I have been diagnosed with mild

ataxic cerebral palsy, am certainly hearing impaired and have a learning disorder

with some expressive speech problems.

However, I can walk (took me a lot of years to learn how to) though I still look a

bit funny trying to run. I can talk and be understood (though sometimes it’s hard

to express what’s in my brain).My breathing is now within normal limits (when I

was little I sounded like a cappuccino machine). I can write really well after many

years of practice but need to have rests as my fingers lose power when I grip a

pencil too long. And yes, I have to wear hearing aids (I have pontoons on my boat

so I am unlikely to fall in) but that’s no big deal. My right side is weaker than my

left so I have to be very careful rowing or I find myself in the next lane and both

my legs are a bit weak so it is hard for me to push properly.

Mum wanted to find a sport for me – she was a good runner when she was young

and dad is a black belt in aikido. I could never understand why she wanted this

and why anyone would ever need to compete – in fact that is still a problem for

me – I am not very competitive and like to do things just for the joy of doing it.

Mum saw a learn to row ad at Leichhardt Rowing Club and thought I should try it.

For the first time in my life something came easily to me. I liked the rhythm of the

oar strokes and the quietness of the water.

Various clubs were asked if they could take a new adaptive rower and Balmain

came straight back with a yes. So I’ve been very lucky to be training with Barbara

and Anne since I started. Also fortunate to be in a double with Alex, our newest rower –

and to have rowed with state, national and world champion Jeremy. Rowing is pretty special for me as I love being

Champions ! Alex and Nikolai celebrate a win


out on the water even when there are people there telling me what to do. I love

being able to do something well and I am especially proud of all my new muscles

even though there are a few shirts I will not fit into soon.

Rowing has made such a difference to my life – it has given me focus and

direction and has made me proud of my achievements. I have wonderful coaches

and a great trainer – Ben Ly – who yells at me with encouragement three times

a week but I am slowly seeing good results so am very happy even though my

week is full and I need lots of rest. I look forward to being the best rower I can

in the future.

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