Last week was a big week for Kingsley Ijomah and the sun was shining to mark his first day back out on the water in 7 months. The combination of winter weather and lockdown meant Kingsley has been confined to rowing on sliders indoors for all of 2020.
Getting back out
But getting back out on the water for Kingsley wasn’t as simple as waiting for some good weather and lockdown to ease. Every rower has to undertake a risk assessment including capsize drills to prove they can recover and return to the rowing club without physical assistance. Simple enough for able bodied rowers, but for wheelchair bound Kingsley, this was a three week process to ensure, not only that he could recover in the water alone, but that he was able to return to the club unaided once ashore. With the assistance of his coach carrying his collapsible crutches onboard a separate scull, Kingsley passed the risk assessment and is now delighted to be back on the water.
So, paperwork out the way and social distancing parameters adhered to Kingsley took the first opportunity available to get out on the water.
“I was so excited to be back out there, I felt like I was where I belong.”
However, it wasn’t quite as blissful as Kingsley had hoped. “The muscle groups used when rowing on a machine are different to those when rowing in a scull. You use your core more as you have the elements and the current to contend with. While the view is always much better rowing outside, I had forgotten that it is actually harder work.” Usually Kingsley would happily row 20k along the river but on his first outing back in the water he managed just 8. “Despite continuing to train hard on the concept2 I’ve got a lot of work to do now I’m back out on the water.”
This last week Kingsley was also recording for a Channel 5 TV show with Tony Robinson. The show focuses on Tony’s love of the Thames and his memories of growing up nearby, however, once Producers heard of a local Paralympian training nearby Kingsley was invited to appear.
“I thought it would just be a quick interview but Tony challenged me to a race on the sliders. He was a good competitor, but I did take it a little easy on him!”
While the show won’t be aired for a couple of months you can see some footage recorded on the day below.
The real challenge
Completing his busy week Kingsley took on his biggest challenge yet, rowing 100k. On Sunday 26th July, Kingsley achieved his goal completing 100k in 10hrs 27mins.
“The erg wouldn’t even let you set 100,000 meters into the monitor because it is too long a digit, so why am I attempting this I asked myself. I figured out it could be set using interval variable with no rest between, which in a way saved me as I can’t imagine looking at the monitor only to see 80,000 meters remaining. I set mine to 2*50,000m with no rest in between which was acceptable psychologically.”
Kingsley was rowing on sliders, alongside his club mates, visually impaired Naomi Richmond who was matching the 100k target and fellow wheelchair user and Covid research Doctor,Sally Hopwell, who had a target of 50k.
“The last 40k was just hell but seeing Sally and Naomi going through the same pain, battling the same demons became a source of renewed strength for me and I am sure for them too. I also know the pain of regret is far worse than the pain in the moment. Even now, saying this the pain is already fading into history and in its place is the deep joy of pushing the boundaries on something I thought was impossible, and even better, sharing the experience with friends and fellow rowers.”
To complete the challenge Kingsley had to row non stop for the duration. His girlfriend was on hand to ensure a constant supply of milkshakes, boiled eggs and bananas, all of which were eaten with one hand while continuing to row with the other. “I burn roughly 1000 calories an hour so refuelling is vial.”
With a time of 10hrs 27mins Kingsley is satisfied with his latest challenge, and plans to reward himself with a days rest, before getting back into training.
It would be fair to say ‘watch this space’, however, as Kingsley has assured us, he won’t be resting on his laurels and has more challenges lined up to ensure he maintains his Olympic level fitness ahead of Tokyo 2021.
Follow Kinsley’s journey to Tokyo 2021 on the Gravity 9 blog or follow us on LinkedIn.