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Paralympian achieves Guinness World Record in 165 mile row ending at the Gravesend Royal Pier

PUBLISHED: 17:18 19 September 2016 | UPDATED: 09:57 20 September 2016

Naomi Riches, Rowing

Naomi Riches, Rowing

EMPICS Sport

Gold medallist Naomi Riches arrived in Gravesend at 16:15 this afternoon - rowing the River Thames in less than 50 hours

The reigning paralympian Naomi Riches completed a gruelling 165 mile row this afternoon at the Gravesend Royal Pier - putting her in the Guinness Book of Records as the fastest woman to row down the River Thames solo.

The 33-year-old rowed non-stop from Lechlade to Gravesend in 47 hours and 59 minutes - beating her target to complete the feat in 50 hours or less.

Riches, who is registered blind and won a gold medal at the 2012 London Paralympics, was escorted along on her course by 2 support launches and was welcomed at the Gravesend Rowing Club when she came ashore at the PLA jetty at the Gravesend Royal Pier.

She started her 165 mile quest on Saturday to raise money for In-Vision - a charity she became a patron of in 2014 whose aim is to further research into Infantile Nystagmus - an eye condition which affects 1 in 1,000 and is the most common form of serious visual impairment in children.

Speaking of the paralympian’s new record, Sally Johnson of the Gravesend Rowing Club said:

“The atmosphere here has been fantastic. It is such an an amazing achievement to row non-stop for near enough two days - especially without being able to see.

“She rowed right through Saturday and Sunday night, battling tides and currents without having any sleep.

“Not only was the physical tide of the row difficult, Naomi endured blistering hands and aches from sitting on a seat for so long - the exhaustion is something you can’t really imagine unless you have rowed yourself.

“Her determination shows that women can do things as well as men, and you do not necessarily have to be able bodied to achieve things.”

After retiring from competitive rowing in 2013, the British adaptive rower decided to embark on the 165 mile non-stop challenge to not only set a record, but change people’s perceptions of disability.

“At school I was known as the ‘the blind girl’ which was frustrating and hurtful. More than anything else in my life I wanted to be known as Naomi Riches and not be defined by my disability. I want to be known for what I am able to do, not what I cannot do”, explained the London-born rower.

As a child, Riches was diagnosed with nystagmus which makes focussing difficult, particularly on moving objects as her eyes are involuntarily and constantly moving.

As well as winning gold in 2012, Riches has won six world championship titles and a bronze medal at the 2008 Beijing Paralympics.

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