Sudbury’s para-athletes are back on the water for another season

Parasport rowing coach Thomas Merritt says programs like the one at the Sudbury Rowing Club are vital to athletes, especially during these difficult times. July 4/21 (Molly Frommer/CTV News Northern Ontario)

Members of the Sudbury Rowing Club’s adaptive program are officially back on Ramsey Lake. The program has been running since 2007, and those involved say despite the COVID restrictions that have been in place, it has not stopped the group from continuing on with this years season. 


Parasport rowing coach, Thomas Merritt says the pandemic has not stopped these athletes from doing what they love. 


“One of the wonderful things about outdoors sports, we get outdoors. So, even when things have been really bad with the pandemic, we come down, we mask up outside, we get the athletes in the water and we’re able to row away,” said Merritt.


“We’ve got a coach boat, a safety boat is out there with them. We’ve always got somebody keeping an eye out.”


Para-athlete Audréane Soenens and her mother Cilvy Dupras have been rowing together for four years now and say they are pleased to be back.


“I’m having fun, and I’m excited,” said Audréane Soenens. 


Dupras says over the years she and her daughter have participated in skating, skiing and rowing. She says she has seen a big difference in her daughter ever since they began participating in these programs, especially on the water. 


“It is almost spiritual being on the water, like you’re one with everything. There is the freedom, there is the social to be in the club, and there is the neuroplasticity that helps her. The better the brain works, the easier it is with everything,” said Dupras. 


Merritt says programs like this are vital to athletes, especially during these difficult times. 


“It’s really a wonderful thing if you’re stuck inside a lot you’ve got a lot of isolation from other people so it’s a wonderful way to get away from that. Especially with the parasport program, if you’ve got athletes with disabilities with different needs it’s an even more isolating feeling than most of us have to deal with,” said Merritt.


“So, these kinds of programs are super important for everybody.”


Merritt says the number of athletes vary each year but he says they are always welcoming new athletes to join the program.