Are you tall, fit and strong? The search for Ireland’s next Olympic and Paralympic rowers – Frank Nugent

Elite heavyweight rowers have a unique combination of physical characteristics – they are tall individuals (186cm for males and ≥ 175 cm for females) with a large aerobic capacity and high strength levels. In prominent rowing nations, talent identification (TID) is a widely utilised method of identifying individuals (generally ≤ 22 years) from the wider population who may have the potential to be an Olympic or Paralympic rower. This blog post details some of my plans for a TID project in rowing.

Talent identification involves conducting a battery of physical tests which assess an individual’s raw potential or talent. The main strength of TID is that it can help to identify talented individuals who may not be currently active in the sport of rowing. For example, the heavyweight women’s pair from Great Britain – Helen Glover and Heather Stanning, were identified through TID and subsequently won the Gold medal at the Rio 2016 Olympics after 5 to 6 years of rowing! Some common TID tests are as follows:

  • Standing height, arm span and weight
  • Arm Leg Bike test (see Figure 1)
  • Concept 2 Dyno strength tests (see Figure 2)

Figure 1: The Arm Leg Bike test is performed on a Schwinn bike and is used to assess an individual’s aerobic fitness

Figure 2 – The Concept 2 Dyno strength tests are the 3-repetition leg press, arm pull and bench press at a maximum effort.

The rowing event at the Paralympic Games comprises of three events – the PR1 event (where a rower uses their arms and shoulders only), PR2 event (trunk and arms only) and PR3 event (legs, trunk and arms). For PR1 and PR2 events, the following TID tests may be more appropriate:

  • Sitting height, arm span and weight
  • Arm ergometer test
  • Concept 2 Dyno strength tests (3-repetition arm pull and bench press at a maximum effort)

The Department of Physical Education and Sport Sciences is in a strong position to conduct a TID project in rowing due to its proximity to the recently established Limerick Training Center, the University of Limerick Rowing Club and several prominent local clubs. Recent reports by FISA – the International Rowing Federation, indicate that all lightweight rowing events may be excluded from the Olympic programme after the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. This could place Ireland’s long history of rowing success, which has been primarily in lightweight events, at jeopardy. Therefore, the need to identify Ireland’s next generation of Olympic heavyweight and Paralympic rowers has never been greater. A number of TID projects in PESS will be launched in the coming months, stay tuned…

Frank Nugent is a lecturer in Biomechanics (acting) at the department of Physical Education and Sport Sciences. He has a PhD in Exercise Physiology, is an accredited S&C coach and Rowing Coach at the University of Limerick. He can be contacted at or follow him on Researchgate, LinkedIn or on twitter @FrankNugent10

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