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SA rower's Paralympic dream in doubt

South Africa's adaptive rowing team is urgently searching for a new female squad member after it emerged that Shannon Lee Murray's permanent disability status is in doubt.

Adaptive rowing team manager Carol Blignaut said on Thursday the team was in need of a new member for the LTA (legs, trunks and arms) mixed crew before the start of the World Rowing Cup in Belgrade, Serbia, in April.

“She [Murray] needs to be athletic with as little physical disability as possible while still meeting the minimum criteria, such as a below-the-knee amputation or the loss of at least three fingers on one hand,” Blignaut said.

The Rowing World Cup is the last opportunity for the national team to qualify for the Paralympic Games in London at the end of August.

Having debuted in Beijing four years ago, adaptive rowing is the most recent addition to the quadrennial disability showpiece.

Meanwhile, Murray, who lost the tops of her toes and soles of her feet to gangrene as a result of a medical condition, has continued training at Rowing SA's (RowSA) performance centre at the University of Johannesburg.

Improvements in Murray's condition has meant that she could be “outclassed” as a disabled athlete.

“What made me qualify initially [for the disabled team] was that there was a blockage in my ankle,” Murray said.

“When I went back for re-assessment it had improved by two degrees, so that meant I might not qualify because I had been such a borderline case to begin with.”

The 24-year-old said she was upset about possibly missing the Paralympics.

“It was exactly what I wanted and I've trained so hard," she said.

"At this point, I would almost like to be more disabled."

The remaining crew members are Clifford Andrews (50), who has a below-the-knee amputation, and visually impaired rowers Sisanda Msekele (24) and Gavin Kilpatrick (30), a bronze medallist at the Beijing Olympics.

Murray said she would not change her circumstances despite suffering multiple organ failure three years ago due to her illness.

“I still battle with walking, but it's opened me up to new ways of thinking and appreciating things a lot more,” she said.

She said she was looking forward to continued involvement with the sport as she had rowed in high school and also coached at tertiary level.


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