FOUR-TIME Paralympian Kathryn Ross has applauded a decision to increase the mixed double scull distance.
The Warrnambool-raised, Canberra-based athlete will tackle a two-kilometre journey rather than the traditional one-kilometre distance when she races at the 2021 Tokyo Games in August.
Ross, who also competed at the 2008, 2012 and 2016 Paralympics, said the increase would suit her.
"It is double distance to what I have done previously," she told The Standard from hotel quarantine in Sydney following qualification success in Italy.
"This games is the first time it's gone to 2km inline with the Olympic teams.
"You change up from a four-minute mark to an eight-minute mark.
"We'll see who can hang on the longest. I love the 2km. I prefer it over 1km.
"It is definitely a different learning experience in terms of pacing yourself at the top gear without burning out.
"It is quite a testament of your own fitness ability."
Ross, who will turn 40 before the Tokyo Games, said the decision provided more inclusivity for para-rowers.
"It was more to place us inline with the able-bodies and it gave us more inclusion which is what we were after," she said.
"More countries then could put their hands up to host us at their world champs. It is easier when they have starting blocks at the 2km mark.
"Otherwise we would race down and finish at 1km and there's no crowds and we'd paddle to the finish line."
Ross won a silver medal at the 2008 Beijing Games.
She said making the final with new rowing partner Simon Albury was the first goal in Tokyo.
Twelve countries have qualified for their event with six to make it through to the final.
"You usually have a clear direction when you go into the games - this is where you're sitting amongst the world, this is what you're capable of," Ross said.
"Simon is very, very new. He's only been rowing for 18 months or so and with (COVID-19) lockdown thrown in the middle of that, it's not a lot of water time.
"The poor fella has been thrown in the deep end. We'd only rowed together a handful of times before we raced in Italy.
"That was our first experience racing together. Two races we did in Italy - the heat and the final - is pretty much all we've done together.
"We have a lot to learn and grow with so for us to make it to the qualifying was pretty phenomenal in itself."
Ross will return to her work as an emergency nurse in Canberra after leaving hotel quarantine.
She will then spend two weeks at a training camp in Sydney before flying to Japan.
"My focus had changed a little bit once COVID did hit (in 2020), in terms of being an emergency nurse, that was my focus," she said.
"We saw what was happening across the world and we weren't sure what was going to happen here so it was all preparing for that, so work took a bit of a focus and sport took a bit of a background job.
"I kept training at home. I am lucky enough to have set up my own gym. On my days off I just focused on training at home.
"The pandemic affected us all very differently. I was very lucky and very fortunate to have things in place which made it less disruptive for me."
Excitement is now building for the games, which were postponed 12 months.
Ross isn't ruling out having a tilt at Paris in 2023 either.
"Age is a number really," she said.
"I never say never and I have said that all along.
"Ideally I would love to, if Paris had singles, to try and demonstrate my own ability in a single event.
"At the moment there is no scope of that happening."
Ross, who thanked coaches Renae Domaschenz and Lincoln Henley, ACT Academy of Sport and Rowing Australia who have been "paramount in keeping me at the level I am at", is already in rare air.
"Now that I have qualified (for Tokyo) I am one of a very small handful of athletes competing at a fourth consecutive games since para-rowing started in 2008," she said.
"It appears there's only four or five athletes in the world to compete at four consecutive games. That is really exciting to be part of that exclusive group."
Bookaar trap shooter Penny Smith, Hamilton table tennis player Melissa Tapper and Camperdown cyclist Grace Brown have qualified for the Olympics.
Warrnambool golfer Marc Leishman and basketballer Nathan Sobey are also a chance to compete.
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