The gliding effect
When French adaptive rower Nathalie Benoît became a World Champion in the Arms and
Shoulders Women’s Single Sculls in 2010, she had only been rowing for two years.
“I discovered the sport while watching the Olympic
Games on television,” says Benoît. “I think it was in 1996.
I was still able-bodied back then and was practicing
another sport, modern pentathlon. That is why I did
not turn to rowing, which I nevertheless found very
Very quickly, Benoît increased her training load and
worked intensively on developing her technique. She
believes the amount of training, combined with the
fact that she has always been active, played a role in
her rapid success.
Benoît has had multiple sclerosis since March 1998. The
illness became apparent one day when she came out of
a lecture at Marseilles’ Sports Science University, where
she was studying. Her handicap evolved gradually and
she has been using a wheelchair since 2005.
“Personally, rowing brought me many good things
physically and emotionally. It helped me get to better
know my body and increase my balance and strength –
this supports me in everyday life. Gliding in a boat also
generates relaxation and well-being, and finally, this
sport allowed me to meet wonderful people at national
and international level.”
For a while, Benoît trained regularly as part of the
national wheelchair basketball team. “I had wanted
to start rowing for a few years, but couldn’t find a club
that welcomed people with a disability,” says Benoît.
“One day I called the managers of a club near my home
and they told me they had begun an adaptive rowing
programme. I started training immediately and became
hooked. I loved the sensation of gliding on the water
and being outdoors, out of my wheelchair, instead of
in a gym.”
Apart from rowing, Benoît is a teacher at the National
Centre for Distance Learning (CNED), plays the violin
and enjoys being with friends and family. Her aim is to
medal at the next Paralympic Games, at London 2012.