Sport

Paralympic rower Kathryn Ross turns to boxing for Rio punches

Paralympic rower Kathryn Ross says she has been a fighter from the day she was born, so it is no surprise she is throwing punches to help her chase a gold-medal dream in Rio.

Ross, a former Rowing Australia female athlete of the year, will combine with Gavin Bellis in the mixed double scull TAMix2x event as they aim to qualify for the Paralympics later this year.

Fighting fit: Paralympic rower, Kathryn Ross, works in the combat centre at the AIS with boxing coach, Paul Perkins.
Fighting fit: Paralympic rower, Kathryn Ross, works in the combat centre at the AIS with boxing coach, Paul Perkins. Photo: Rohan Thomson

The pair have been rowing together for five years and have their sights set on gold after missing out on a medal in London four years ago before becoming world champions.

 

Mixing it up: Paralympic rower, Kathryn Ross, is using boxing to help her reach her goal of winning gold in Rio.
Mixing it up: Paralympic rower, Kathryn Ross, is using boxing to help her reach her goal of winning gold in Rio. Photo: Rohan Thomson

To make sure she leaves no stone unturned in her quest, Ross has enlisted the help of Boxing Australia coach and friend Paul Perkins to throw everything into her journey.

"I've always enjoyed boxing, I dabbled it in a few years ago and I met Paul when I first came here in 2009," Ross said.

"It helps me in so many ways, my breathing in the boat, core control, thinking on the spot and turning power on and off where I'm not fearful of what's around me or what's coming.

"One of the things is controlling breathing under pressure to turn that into power rather than it overtaking you. In the boat I find that I'm pushing and pushing knowing I can punch it out. It's an awesome mindset change."

Mix 'n'match: Boxing Australia coach Paul Perkins has been working with Paralympic rower Kathryn Ross.
Mix 'n'match: Boxing Australia coach Paul Perkins has been working with Paralympic rower Kathryn Ross. Photo: Rohan Thomson

Ross won a silver medal at the 2008 Paralympics in China and is a three-time world champion with Bellis in the boat.

The duo are ramping up training before this year's Paralympics in Brazil and will compete in Poland in June to see how well they are tracking.

Ross' leg became disfigured after her father accidentally ran over her with a ride-on lawn mower when she was two years old.

Bellis is a former army sergeant who served in East Timor, Bougainville and the Solomon Islands. He was discharged when diagnosed with spinocerebellar ataxia.

Ross channels her fighting spirit to throw punches at Perkins and the same tenacity is what will drive her to reach her goal in Rio.

"I think I've always been a fighter in some way. I came out fighting, from my accident years ago I've had to fight just to walk and in every day life," Ross said.

"I've always had that underlining fight, a bit of fire in the belly. it can get daunting in the build up to [the Paralympics] and you think 'have I done enough?'.

"You have to push that aside and hope that by the time we hit Rio we've done what we need to do. Something like boxing will help me stay focused."

The Ross-Perkins boxing partnership is proof that cross-pollination between sports still exists at the AIS.

The AIS has come under fire in recent weeks for shifting away from its traditional athlete hub under the Winning Edge program.

But Perkins, who is a Boxing Australia coach based at the institute, has no doubt sports are still utilising the relationships at the AIS and backed Ross to use boxing to help her push for gold.

The pair meet once a week to train at the AIS Combat Centre.

"We get together for what we call a 'thrash session' - a high intense session that Kat hopes will aid her journey to Rio," Perkins said.

"I'm always open-minded and I'm not quite sure where it may or may not help her. But Kat said it helps her switch on and off.

"It might just help her not get stale, she's been rowing for a long time. I've had basketballers, tennis players, mountain bikers in here, I think it would be cool to explore those options.

"The sports are still working together, we're part of the AIS combat centre and part of that culture is an appreciation for other sports. We're trying to get athletes, coaches and the scientists together to learn from each other."