Talk about a bloke all dressed up for the ball but without a partner and Hawke's Bay para-rower Gavin Foulsham comes to mind.

Foulsham is unable to compete at next year's Paralympics in Tokyo because he is unable to find a Kiwi female with a disability prepared to row with him. He is only eligible for the adaptive mixed double scull category at Paralympics level as organisers have yet to accept his single category.

But this hasn't stopped Foulsham, 48, from chasing international success. On August 21 Foulsham, who is no stranger to defying the odds, and his Hawke's Bay Rowing Club coach Ross Webb will travel to Austria to prepare for the August 25-September 1 world championships where clubmates, Olympian Emma Twigg and New Zealand age group medallist Tom Mackintosh, will also be in action.

"These world champs only opened up to para-rowers two years ago. I decided to give them a serious crack because there is only a slim chance we may be able to compete in Tokyo and while it is looking good for the 2024 Paralympics in Paris I might be getting a bit old by then," Foulsham explained.


In Austria he will be one of 10 athletes competing in the PR2 2000m event.

"Depending on how I go I could have three races. But I'm going to try and win my heat and then I would go straight to the final," Foulsham said.

"While my training times have been good you don't have any idea of how well you are going until you get over there and take on your rivals."

The general manager at Napier's Classic New Zealand Sheepskin Tannery who was born with no fibula bones and had his lower legs amputated at the age of four but still played rugby as a youngster has been training up to 15 hours each week for the past three months. Most mornings he can be seen clocking up the metres on the Clive and Ngaruroro rivers.

"I've been training hard and I've made a few changes aimed at getting a bit more reach and boat speed. I've reduced my stroke rate at the same time ... I'm doing a bit more with a little bit less," Foulsham said.

He qualified for Austria by reaching the A final at the FISA International Para-Rowing regatta in Gavirate, Italy in May. Foulsham will use the same boat he leased in Italy in Austria.

"Being up against younger competitors I will need to draw on years of experience to get a shot at a podium finish," Foulsham said.

Experience is something Foulsham doesn't lack although it is more from another code - wheelchair racing. He finished fifth in the 800m at the 1992 Barcelona Paralympics and ninth in the marathon at the 2000 Paralympics in Sydney.


As a wheelchair marathoner Foulsham attended five world championships from 1991 to 2006.

"It's 30 years since I first represented New Zealand at the FESPIC Games in Kobe, Japan, and in the intervening years I've learnt, from both good and bad experiences, how I tick, and what makes things move for me."

Foulsham switched to rowing in 2010. That year he teamed up with Putaruru's Jacqui Courtier, a former New Zealand wheelchair basketball teammate of his who also represented New Zealand at wheelchair tennis. They competed at several international regattas and went close to qualifying for the 2012 London Paralympics.

He is full of praise for the support he and Webb have received from their Hawke's Bay Rowing Club clubmates in the countdown to the trip to Austria. While Rowing New Zealand will cover Webb and Foulsham's costs while in Austria Foulsham has enlisted Hawke's Bay businesses Ovation, Giant Brewing and Te Awanga Estate to help put together lamb, beer and wine hampers to help raise funds for their flights to and from Austria.

Foulsham is logging progress on his blog,, and the world championship results will be listed in the news section of the Rowing NZ website: