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My Story: Living the Dream

My husband Justin and I have always loved the sport of rowing. For as long as I can remember it has been a passion of ours and even though we’re new to the Lake Nona area, we are certainly not new to rowing. With more than 33 years of combined experience, it’s our hope to bring new sporting opportunities to East Orlando and Central Florida while adding to the overall health and activity level of our neighbors.

Our rowing team, South Orlando Rowing Association (SORA), has programs for anyone who is passionate or even just interested in learning about rowing. But starting last month, we began a whole new phase of programming that has us very excited. We are now hosts to two athletes training for the 2012 London Paralympic Games. Sgt. Rob Jones and Oksana Masters are both Trunk and Arms Athletes who will be in Orlando for three months through SORA’s partnerships with Paralympic Military Program, Athletes Without Limits and Louisville Adaptive Rowing.

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Oksana Masters and Sgt. Rob Jones rowing at Moss Park as part of SORA’s partnership with the Paralympic Military Program, Athletes Without Limits and Louisville Adaptive Rowing training for USA trials to earn the right to race in 2012 London Paralympic for Team USA.

Rob is a US Marine who was honorably serving our country in Afghanistan when he came across an IED (explosive), which resulted in amputation of both legs. Rob became a bilateral above knee amputee in July of 2010.

After spending her early childhood in a Ukranian orphanage, Oksana was adopted when she was 7-years-old. As a result of radiation poisoning, Oksana had both of her legs amputated above the knee. Oksana has been rowing for 10 years through Louisville Adaptive Rowing.

Working with Athletes Without Limits whose focus is intellectually disabled athletes, and the Paralympic Military Program doors will be opened for adaptive rowing and rehabilitation in Central Florida. Through this partnership, SORA coaches and families are receiving training on the integration of adaptive rowing with existing programs.

Justin has always said that in rowing, disabled athletes are able to experience the freedom that the water has to offer.   A boat glides through the water with the same grace and ease no matter what your skill level or ability and the thrill of competition can be just as rewarding for all. The pride of being part of a team, that is greater than the sum of its members, is equal for all athletes and coaches alike and rowing offers that opportunity to the disabled community.

The sport of adaptive rowing, which made its Paralympic debut in 2008 Beijing Paralympic games currently offers three competitive categories for athletes:

  • Legs, trunk, and arms
  • Trunk and arms only
  • Arms and shoulders

In addition to physically disabilities, there are also rowing opportunities for the intellectually disabled (ID) community with most ID athletes rowing in group boats with SORA adult and youth volunteers.

We encourage everyone to get involved by volunteering or by learning to row. Our volunteers are a vital part of being able to serve the adaptive community in Central Florida but they don’t need to have previous rowing experience.

SORA coaches and volunteers utilize rowing to promote strong character, high integrity, positive self-concept, contribution to community, and a healthful lifestyle. We are honored to be here and look forward to you joining our diverse, challenging and rewarding group as we become even more involved in the community.

SORA can be found daily at Moss Park rowing on Lake Mary Jane and Lake Hart. They offer programs for all ages including Middle School, High School, Adult, Adaptive and programs for students with Autism Spectrum Disorder. If interested in volunteering with rowing programs serving Physically Disabled and Intellectually Disabled athletes or any of SORA’s programs, visit www.SORAcrew.com.

Article By Katie Lednar

About Insight Magazine

Insight Magazine is an issue-focused, community-driven free monthly print publication focused on the neighborhoods of Waterford Lakes, Avalon Park, Vista Lakes and Lake Nona. Inside Insight's pages and online at www.InsightEastOrlando.com you'll find community news, human interest stories and profile pieces focused on your community and the people that make it great. To learn more or to find out how you can be a part of Insight, call us at 407.382.5660 or email our publisher by clicking here.