WRITTEN BY DAVID BIGGY • STAFF WRITER • JUNE 30, 2011
WEST WINDSOR — At 83, Jimmy Woods and his 73-year-old wife, Kate, could have stayed home in Tequesta, Fla., to enjoy some fishing or other activities on the Sunshine State’s East Coast Wednesday morning.
Instead Jacqui Kapinowski’s parents opted to stand along the southern banks of Mercer Lake, to witness their daughter’s phenomenal strides toward yet another world-class athletic achievement.
“When Jacqui told me last year she was going to row, I said, ‘Go for it, girl,’ ” said Jimmy Woods, who along with his wife drove some 1,200 miles from Tequesta to Point Pleasant on Sunday and Monday to make sure they could be here to see Kapinowski and mixed-doubles rowing partner Anthony Davis win the 1,000-meter event in the U.S. Rowing Adaptive World Championship Trials.
The victory, which took Kapinowski and Davis all of 4:17.16 to complete, sends the duo to Bled, Slovenia, for the World Rowing Championships from Aug. 28-Sept. 4, where they will attempt to qualify for next year’s London Paralympics.
Kapinowski, who has Stiff Person Syndrome (SPS) and no use of her legs, last year competed for the U.S. Curling team at the Vancouver Paralympics, and after retiring from curling took up rowing at the end of June last year. For many years prior to her curling endeavors, which started in 2006, Kapinowski used a wheelchair racer to compete in running events, including marathons.
In fact, now that Kapinowski has earned a spot on the U.S. rowing team for the World Championships, she’s going to travel back to the U.S. Rowing training center in Oklahoma City to prepare, but not before she makes a stop in the Windy City for the Chicago Marathon.
“She trains like crazy,” Jimmy Woods said. “She just keeps on going.”
Kapinowski and Davis certainly were going at the start of Wednesday’s World Championship trials final. Competing in the Trunk-Arms (TA) class, the tandem sprung from the start line, chugged their way to a lead well before the 250-meter mark and simply surged on, never slowing until they streaked across the finish line 15 seconds ahead of the second-place boat.
“Our start was really good,” Kapinowski said. “You want to be able to see your competition in front of you and keep it that way throughout the race. We really put our best out there today. Our coach (Matt Muffelman) said that was a medal race.”
In last year’s World Championships, the TA mixed-doubles team of Dmytro Ivanov and Iryna Kyrychenko of the Ukraine won the gold in 4:24.71 at Lake Karapico, near Cambridge, New Zealand.
If Kapinowski and Davis manage a top-eight finish in Slovenia, they will qualify for London 2012. Kapinowski only started with the U.S. Rowing developmental camp in April, and she’s been training with Davis the past eight weeks.
“I’m in shock. It’s still really hard to believe that I’ve done this well,” Kapinowski said. “The goal is to get to London, and we came to this race very well prepared. But now this is the start of the next phase. Today, we started training for the World Championships.”
And while Kapinowski was still a bit shocked by her accomplishment, her father wasn’t.
“Since she’s been disabled, it’s opened up a whole new world of opportunities for her that she probably wouldn’t have had as an able-bodied person,” Jimmy Woods said. “But I don’t think of her as disabled. I think of her as an athlete. I had no doubt she’d win today.