Foreign-based athlete Aisha Chow, 38, became the first Trinidad and Tobago national to ever secure a berth for the red, white and black in the discipline of rowing after qualifying for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Chow, who will be 39-yearsold this summer, will be older than the average Olympian at this year’s Games. The now Olympic- bound rower grew up on the outskirts of Port-of-Spain and attended St Joseph’s Convent before moving to the US for college.
She first started rowing while at the University of Miami, where she was working toward dual bachelor’s degrees in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and Microbiology and Immunology while on a full academic scholarship.
As a walk-on to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I rowing team, she didn’t have the experience of other athletes who had been recruited from high school rowing teams.
However, her dedication and promise as an athlete were evident and, by the end of her freshman year, she was a member of the top Varsity Women’s boat and on an athletic scholarship.
During her four years at the University of Miami, while maintaining a constant presence on the scholastic honour roll, Chow contributed to some of the institution’s best placements, including gold medals at the Southern Intercollegiate Rowing Association Championship Regatta.
After the University of Miami, Chow took a 10-year break from organised sports while she pursued her PhD degree in Pharmacology at Duke University, and then advanced her research career in the biotechnology industry in California’s San Francisco Bay Area.
Chow would return to the water purely for fun but her competitive spirit would got the better of her and she began entering and winning local Masters race events (age 27 and over). As she racked up gold medals, Chow kept pushing her sights higher, eventually competing in the US Masters National Regatta in 2014.
There, she proved herself to be the fastest female Masters rower in the United States with five gold medals.
At this point, Chow realised that if she wanted to keep testing her mettle, the next step was competing at elite racing events alongside National Team contenders.
At 2000m, elite sprint rowing events are twice as long as Masters sprint events. Chow adjusted her training and in 2015 posted a series of impressive results in the US and Canada, including gold medals and podium finishes at US Club Nationals and the Royal Canadian Henley.
In continuing with her record of striving toward the next higher goal, Chow set out to be the first rower to represent Trinidad and Tobago at the Olympics.
Earlier this month, Chow competed at the Latin American and Caribbean Olympic Qualifier Regatta in Valparaiso, Chile. Competing over several days, Chow posted a personal best time in the semi-finals to qualify for the finals and earn a historic spot for TT in Rio.