New Mixed Ability rowing Ambassadors

by | Apr 28, 2023 | News

IMAS is incredibly pleased to welcome on board two new Ambassadors who have extraordinary experience in promoting inclusion through rowing!

Cristina Ansaldi and Mark Dewdney are two internationally renowned coaches in the para-rowing scene, who over the years have implemented a great deal of projects to ensure people of all abilities could be involved in rowing activities. Over the past few years, Mark and Cristina have been trialing with success the Mixed Ability model, becoming the point of reference for the whole international Mixed Ability movement.

Cristina currently coaches at Società Canottieri Armida (Turin, Italy), where she is the head coach for the para-rowing section, as well as an assistant coach for the junior and senior sections. Cristina has more than 18 years of experience coaching people of all abilities and has taken the lead on the Mixed Ability project, organising both the trip to Cork 2022 and 2 Mixed Ability regattas in Turin, in 2021 and 2022.

She has been awarded the Bronze Collar honour from the Italian Paralympic Committee for services to rowing, and coached at Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, with 3 boats qualified. She is also a World Rowing international Para rowing classifier. Cristina has created and developed the Armida para-rowing International regatta, which is now at its 14th edition, and now includes Mixed Ability teams from across Europe.

Mark has coached para/adaptive rowing for 16 years, the last 7 at Stratford-upon-Avon. Starting at Stratford with just one pararower his squad is now 20 strong – catering for all types of disability. Stratford is regarded as a leading light in grassroots adaptive rowing in the UK. Mark and his team have won a number of awards for their proactive approach to inclusion and were named the UK Parasport Club of the Year in 2020. He is merging his adaptive section with the club’s recreational group in line with the IMAS model.

In 2018 Mark helped establish the Club Adaptive Group (CAG) of UK rowing clubs as the voice for the UK Adaptive Rowing Community; He has been its proactive Chairman ever since. The CAG now has nearly 40 clubs and other organisations affiliated to it. The CAG works directly with British Rowing to formulate policies to increase participation and foster best practice.

The Mixed Ability approach has opened my eyes to a better way of delivering and promoting the benefits of sport to all. Its about making everyone part of the rowing community in its fullest sense. Social and sporting integration. We should all be in the same boat having fun. I am honoured to become an IMAS Amabassador and will do my best to promote it’s inclusive approach.  – Mark Dewdney



1 Comment

  1. Turin Tales by Celia Hickson and Michael Kernan
    barcOctober 29, 2021Uncategorized0 comments
    Back in 2018 when Mixed Ability Rowing was in its infancy at BARC, we hosted an Italian rower, Enrico Colzani, who took a trip or two in a quad on the Aire. Enrico was visiting International Mixed Ability Sports and was keen to get BARC MA rowers to a regatta at the Societa Conttieri Armida on the Po in Turin.
    Fast forward three years and their invitation was re-extended to row at the Para Rowing 15th edition Regatta – Rowing for Paris 2024 on 23rd and 24th October 2021.
    After a considerable break in MA rowing due to the pandemic I decided that if the trip was restricted to scoping the event and the host rowing club and getting Michael to watch an international regatta then we would have had a successful time; so we signed up, but quite what for I didn’t really know!
    Turns out Google translate and DuoLingo Italian don’t prepare one for the intricacies of rowing terminology and anyway there is no word for sculling in Italian.

    Travelling after all the restrictions placed upon us by COVID came as a massive shock to the system; paperwork, apps, travel passes, tests, more tests, being asked to prove everything in digital and paper variations and doing this for three people (did I mention Michael took a support worker Naomi with him?) was a huge ask, but with my usual flair for taking on big tasks without really assessing the implications, we somehow made it to Turin and wow!

    The Societa Conttieri Armida, founded in 1869, is one of six rowing clubs on the Po. It has a unique position, in a big and well used park, Parco del Valentino, and is almost in Turin’s city centre.

    The clubhouse is a beautiful, light and airy building with a terrace to die for, a rowing tank cut under the road in a specially constructed vaulted ceiling room, boathouses brimming with Fillipi boats and a restaurant.
    The welcome was lovely and everyone was keen to meet the ‘Inglesi’. Michael got a late evening outing in a coxed four despite never having sat in a sweep boat before, after we watched over 100 school age scullers get themselves afloat and row the 1000m short course.
    The next day was a full regatta timetable and I watched the Italian equivalent of Barry stringing up ancient bunting, as the visiting clubs enjoyed a Friday evening glass of wine in the sun. Saturday dawned warm and bright and we headed out to the river. The sight that met us was such a joy to behold; para-athletes and mixed ability participants in their 100’s fully embracing rowing and competing.
    Racing was side by side over 1000m and at times four lane rowing. Michael was pleased to find his Mixed Ability partner, Stefano, was an Armida club rower and they sculled away from the pontoon looking relaxed. And then it dawned on me, Michael was in a fine double; how would he cope?
    Waiting for the Open 2x race was torture; ‘what if’s’ flying through my mind. But the non-stop commentary mentioned ’Inglesi Michel Kernoun’ and there they were driving hard towards to the line, a boat on their outside taking the wider course and gifting them second place and the silver medal.

    Michael was delighted and once safely on land, quite vociferous about his exploits in the ‘bit wobbly’ boat. I was so pleased for him; an international race, on different water, in a fine boat, over 1000m – what a triumph!

    There were tearful medal ceremonies all day and Michael’s was no exception, with all six medallists becoming slightly emotional.
    One amusing part of both days of the regatta was when, at lunchtime, all racing stopped. Nothing odd in that as officials have to rotate and everyone needs a break. But we were all led into the dining hall, seated at tables with white linen cloths and tastefully arranged flowers and served a full three-course meal, pretty much like our annual dinner in the middle of a regatta! And then everyone went back to the river, jumped back into boats and started racing again.
    Sunday’s racing was the short (500m) course. Michael was again joined by Stefano and this time they had their sights set on the gold. But a very strong 2x did not give them that opportunity and a photo finish gave Michael and Stefano their second silver of the weekend.
    This time the medal was awarded by the President of S. C. Armida who graciously accepted our plaque commemorating the historic occasion and chatted happily with a fellow President until Michael flipped off my cap and revealed my blue hair!
    I was reluctant to get involved as being there for Michael was my role for the weekend, but after his race Michael was keen for ‘Missus’ to get a race and so I coxed a Mixed Ability scratch eight in a strange and highly effective coxing language of my own invention – part Italian, part English, part shrieking “Legs, gambe, now, ora, insieme, together.”

    It worked and the crew won by a length. This time the medals were presented by the Tokyo 2020 Women’s Lightweight Doubles Gold Medallist Federica Casarini which was pretty cool.

    So we triumphed! Coming away with medals and new friends. We learnt that rowing is pretty much the same everywhere, rowers are friendly and hospitable and if you are adaptable and open to new experiences, great things can come your way!
    So now I have to work out how MA Rowing at BARC reciprocates and gives Armida’s lovely MA squad a chance to enjoy our beautiful stretch of Aire. And next year Michael wants to return to Turin with more Inglesi to enjoy the delights of Italian rowing – anyone fancy a trip to Turin?


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