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‘Rowing wasn’t my first choice; I wanted to be an athlete’

‘Rowing wasn’t my first choice; I wanted to be an athlete’

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Despite being born with multiple complications with his legs, Devin Richards wanted to be a track athlete.

However, Richards’ disabilities have pushed him into an unexpected sphere of sports, that of a para–rower.

Sought out by the St Vincent and the Grenadines Rowing Association, the 18-year-old Richards got the opportunity to travel to Florida in the USA, last March, to be a participant at a Para Rowing Training Camp and Regatta, staged at the Nathan Benderson Park in Sarasota.

Unfamiliar with even going close to a body of water, far less the sport of rowing, Richards was able to quickly adapt to the rudiments of the sport and was able to manoeuvre his scull (boat used in rowing), all by himself.

Speaking to SEARCHLIGHT recently, Richards revealed: “Rowing was not my first choice sport, but given the opportunity, I chose it …I wanted to be an athlete”.

While at the training camp, Richards got the opportunity to compete, doing so in a double ender, along with American Olympian Chris Meyer.

“Everyone was very surprised at how quickly I learnt, but I am a person who, when I put my mind to something, I will give it my best,” Richards declared.

“My first experience in Rowing in Sarasota was very exciting … It was a whole new set of stuff, but I am looking forward to begin here in St Vincent (and the Grenadines),” he projected.

Richards, though, has another hurdle to mount if he wants to compete at the International Rowing Federation’s regattas.

He has to find a female para-rower partner who has physical disabilities, such as loss of limbs, so that the two would form a mixed team.

But putting his physical condition into perspective, he was born with partial legs, the right only to above his knee and the left, below the knee.

Being part of a triplet, but with the other two brothers having the full complement of their anatomies, compounded Richards’ psychological battles as a child.

Recounting his early years of acceptance of his physical disability, Richards said he hid from people when they visited his home. Then, he could only scoot around on his knee.

“I used to hide from people, because I didn’t want them to see me without legs,” Richards recalled.

He, however, was able to overcome that barrier when he entered the Stubbs Primary School.

“I had a wheelchair, and all the children treated me special and always wanted to push me; that helped a lot in accepting my condition.”

Things turned for the better for Richards when he travelled to Tallahassee, Florida, over a decade ago, to be fitted with the first pair of prosthetic legs.

Last month, Richards had his second pair of prosthetics, when he again travelled to Tallahassee, after attending the Para Rowing Camp in Sarasota.

This latest set of prosthetics was embraced by Richards, who stated that it will help him immensely with his mobility.

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