19 year old Georgia Walker of Maidenhead, England began her rowing career at the age of 14. Attending a learn to row course, Walker was asked to leave two days in. The coaches sent athletes on a run, but Walker ran into a tree, fell, and cut her back up. For most, this would be the end of their athletic career. Walker was born completely blind in her left eye, and is only able to detect light, whereas her right eye has 20% of vision. Walker’s condition is called Nystagmus: a condition where one is unable to control their eye movements. Regardless of her visual impairment, her competitive nature remains strong.
Walker quickly found a home at Marlow Rowing Club where she began to train for the next few years. Alongside training with the Marlow Rowing Club, Walker began sessions with the para squad, as well as additional sessions with her coach prior to regular training sessions. Walker competes as a PR3 athlete meaning that while she is visually impaired, she is still able to utilize her arms, trunk, and legs to compete. During day to day training, Walker trains on a narrow canal with her coach cycling beside her on the bank where they direct her dependent on the position of where she is on the canal. For races, Walker’s boat is adapted in order to clearly indicate where she is on the course. This is done by a cox box that is connected to radios between her and her coach. During races, coaches may only state “left” or “right”, as well as “500 down, 500 to go” for example, in order to give an idea of where Walker is on the course during her racing.
With all of this training, it is a no brainer why Walker’s resume is so impressive. During her J-16 year, Walker not only began making a name for herself, she was paving the way for future para-athletes. Following an immense amount of hesitation from the committee, Walker became the FIRST PR3 athlete to race the Henley Women’s course. Committee members stated that the course was too narrow, and it would be virtually impossible for a blind athlete to navigate the race. Walker not only found ways to adapt to this race course, she won Henley Women’s. Attending British Indoor Championships in 2019, Walker won medals across various distances including the 2,000m, the 500m, and the 100m sprints. She also claimed gold a few months later at the National Junior Indoor Rowing Championships. Walker found herself blazing a trail for para-athletes all around the world, and this inspired her to continue racing beyond the junior level into University. Walker stated that, “although there are a lot of positives to being a para-athlete, there are also a lot of limitations”.
According to Walker, many rowing committees and regattas have been wary to include para rowers, especially visually impaired due to a plethora of risk factors that she feels chalk up to excuses. Walker utilizes her knowledge and daily training routines in order to educate committee members, as well as the general population on para-rowing with the intent of the experience becoming easier for future para athletes. Attending Hartpury University, Walker is studying sport exercise nutrition and sciences, whilst following their training program and continuing to row. To work on experience level, Walker entered various races in the able-bodied category, not letting categories define her success. Walker’s hard work and determination has continued to pay off as she was selected to represent England as a para-rower in 2019, as well as 2022 where she won gold both times. In terms of the future, Walker is trialing in hopes of making the Great Britain para team, all while continuing to use her platform to advocate for the equality of para athletes within sport.