A personal story by Jason Beagle, former DCSRC rower and Olympic hopeful
I joined DC Strokes in 2007 to meet people and hopefully find a boyfriend. Instead, I fell in love with rowing.
I never considered myself disabled. What’s a little paralysis? After my car accident in 1994, I learned to adapt and live with it. Rowing was added to the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing. With a lot of encouragement from DCSRC Coach Patrick Johnson, I joined Capital Adaptive to see what it was like to row with other rowers with disabilities. I was classified as an adaptive rower with functional use of his legs, trunk and arms — LTA.
At the start of 2011, I received an email from US Rowing Coach Karen Lewis asking me to submit erg scores for consideration for the national team in the LTA mixed 4+ event. So, with Coach Patrick, I pounded out my first erg scores for submission to US Rowing. We then went to CRASH-Bs. Upon my return from Boston, I received an e mail from Coach Karen inviting me to a development camp at the Oklahoma City National High Performance Center, an officially designated Olympic and Paralympic training facility. I went to the camp and upon its conclusion was invited to Selection Camp in June, 2011.
With only ten weeks to prepare for selection camp, I worked with DC Strokes and Capital Adaptive to create a training plan on par with the high performance rowers training in Oklahoma. I rowed four hours a day for ten weeks in DC Strokes and Capital programs while working 45 hours a week.
I went to camp.
I lost my seat race and did not make team. I left discouraged. Thankfully, I kept racing with DC Strokes. My teammates have no idea how much they helped me overcome that disappointment and recommit to making the team in 2012. I also rowed in adaptive sprint races at the Quaker City Regatta, the Royal Canadian Henley Regatta and the Bayada Regatta.
In early July, I received an e mail from Coach Karen asking me to consider moving to Oklahoma City. I pondered it for several weeks. I returned to Oklahoma City with Strokes for US Master’s National Championships and it felt right. I told my friends about my invitation. Over the course the Fall season, with inspiration from Coaches Meredith Miller, Kyle Chavers and Tyler Pabst, I realized I had to go for it. My life and career were headed in the wrong direction.
Rowing had become the only thing that brought joy and happiness to my life. I had to see where it would lead. In October, 2011, I was stroke at the Head of the Charles Regatta and Capital Adaptive successfully defended its course record in the LTA 4+ event set in 2010. In early November, I officially applied for residency at the Oklahoma City National High Performance Center and was accepted.
The point of no return came on December 15, 2011 when I quit my job. It was hard to say goodbye but I did. Jump and the net will appear.
On January 1, 2012, I packed up my car and left Washington, D.C.
I arrived in Oklahoma City on January 2. I am now in residence with 25 high performance rowers at the OKC-NHPC. We are all training to earn seats in boats representing the United States in London. I am currently training twice daily, six days a week, averaging 24 km a day.
Those of us who can, squeeze in work around our rigorous training schedule. The USA team finished 6th in the LTA 4+ at the 2011 World Championships in Bled, Slovenia, 11 seconds behind Great Britain. The boat was prequalified for the Paralympic Games in London. In late May and early June, I will be in Charlottesville, Virginia for Selection Camp. All of my efforts are focused on winning my seat race and winning the gold medal for the USA in London.
My training in Oklahoma is overseen by Coach Matt Muffelman. Matt competed in World Rowing Championships from 2005-2010. Bryan Volpenhein, stroke from the 2004 Olympic gold medal winning men’s heavyweight 8+, is the head coach. Jeremy Ivey is the assistant coach and has many small boats qualified in upcoming international regattas. Under their tutelage, high performance rowers strive to get faster.
A typical day starts at 7 a.m.
My first weeks were spent in the double with Andrew Johnson, an adaptive rower from the 2011 national team. Coach Muff’s focus was correcting my drive. We focused on push-swing to maximize the power in my legs and connection to the boat. Recently we have moved up to the swing. This is challenging area for me due to spinal fusion in my lower back.
A lot of time was spent in the high propulsion tank breaking down the stroke and using mirrors for instantaneous feedback. We work our base every day and weight lift twice a week. Once I have achieved a higher level of mastery, we move on to another part of the stroke.
My head is still full of reminders, but it is slowly becoming muscle memory. In the spring, we will start two a day practices on the water. If all goes well, we will be rowing at the San Diego Crew Classic in early April then on to selection and the Paralympics.
I never could have imagined a DC Strokes Learn to row would lead to this. Now, I proudly wear my DC Strokes splash jacket on the Oklahoma River while training to represent our country.
*Note from the team: We could not be more proud of Jason. Follow along on our Facebook page for updates on Jason's journey as we cheer him on!