Who is Para Rower Gemma Wollenschlaeger? and What’s her disability?

Gemma Wollenschlaeger a professional para rower, 24, will compete for the United States in the upcoming Paralympics Paris in 2024. For the first time in her career, Gemma will be competing for the United States at Paralympics. She is diagnosed with left clubfoot, which causes her legs to move abnormally. She is a really talented rower.

Rower Gemma Wollenschlaeger takes the world stage

Gemma Wollenschlaeger, a rowing athlete, has been chosen to participate in the 2024 Paris Paralympic Games, as announced by USRowing today.

Wollenschlaeger, a junior student at Temple University, has been named a member of the United States PR3 mixed four with coxswain team. She will compete with the national team at the 2024 Paralympic Games in Paris, France.

During this past summer, Wollenschlaeger earned a spot with the US Para Rowing team that took part in the 2023 World Rowing Championships. Competing in the PR3 mixed double sculls event, Wollenschlaeger and her teammate Todd Vogt won the 2023 Para-Rowing Regatta to Paris and secured a silver medal at the 2023 World Rowing Championships held in Belgrade, Serbia.

“I am beyond excited and grateful to have this awesome opportunity to compete for Team USA at the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games,” “Big shoutout to all my coaches who have helped me get to this point and an even bigger shoutout to my current coaches and teammates, as this would not have been possible without your support.”

Wollenschlaeger said. 

Gemma’s Age, childhood and her family

Gemma was born in August 2000 in Crofton, Maryland. Her parents are Lezanna Wollenschlaeger and Alan Wollenschlaeger. Gemma’s uncle, Luke Wollenschlaeger, holds the world record for rowing on the erg machine in his age group.

When Gemma was a child, she played many sports but felt extreme pain and discomfort in her feet. Basketball was very important to her as a kid until a bad experience made her want to stop playing sports completely.

Gemma Wollenschlaeger with her family
Image: Gemma with her Family (Source: Gemma’s Instagram)

Gemma says her family are her personal heroes because they remind her of who she is and support her in everything she does. Gemma’s hobbies are trying new restaurants, traveling, being outdoors, spending time with family and friends, and singing along to songs from the 2000s.

Why Gemma Underwent Multiple Surgeries

Before Gemma was born, doctors knew she had a left clubfoot. This is a condition where the foot is twisted abnormally. As she was growing up, Gemma had to go through multiple surgeries to try to fix her clubfoot. She also did many hours of physical therapy just so she could learn to walk properly.

Gemma is not able to walk for more than 15 minutes at a time. This limits her ability in some sports. However, rowing does not require any standing at all. Gemma showed she was naturally good at rowing right from the start, even though she had only been rowing for two years.

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When she was younger, Gemma used to hide her clubfoot from others. But after discovering rowing, she started to see her condition as a gift instead. Now she loves talking about her clubfoot. Gemma hopes she can be an example to others with disabilities. She wants to help them develop the same confidence she now has.

“Embrace it,” “You were given this awesome challenge and you should make that challenge into this amazing opportunity to run to the stars with.” 

Wollenschlaeger said.

Gemma is in a very Supportive and Caring Relationship

Gemma is in a relationship with Luca Arvanitis. They have been a couple since the year 2019. When Gemma is unable to walk because of her condition, Luca acts as her support and helps her stand.

Luca is very caring and supportive towards Gemma.

How Gemma Wollenschlaeger started her career

By the time Gemma started her first year of high school, she had almost given up on her love for sports. She tried every sport you can imagine, but after being cut from her traveling basketball team and losing interest in swimming, she decided to stop trying completely.

The next year, Gemma stayed home, watched Netflix, and felt bad for herself. However, her desire to play sports and be outside never went away.

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It was not until the end of her second year of high school that Gemma discovered rowing and decided to try it. Around that time, Gemma found a local rowing club, tried it out, and quickly fell in love with the sport.

It has only been 5 years since Gemma started rowing after falling in love with the game.

Gemma Wollenschlaeger Temple’s Women Rowing Club

Gemma Wollenschlaeger is from Crofton, Maryland. For the last two years, she has been a strong rower on the Temple University Women’s Rowing team.

Gemma’s great performance at Temple helped her get chosen for the US Para Rowing team. She competed at the World Championships over the summer. This gave Gemma experience in international competitions in Serbia and France.

In 2022, Gemma was named the Newcomer of the Year for Temple Women’s Rowing. She also earned second-team honors in the AAC conference.

During her time rowing for Temple, Gemma has built an impressive record. She and Temple’s Varsity 8 boat finished third at the conference championships. This was the first time a Temple Varsity 8 boat has won a medal at that competition since 2016.

Gemma’s Road to Paris and Recent Achievements

Gemma Wollenschlaeger, a junior rower at Temple University, earned a spot on the US Para Rowing team for the 2023 World Championships.

She competed in the PR3 mixed double scull event, rowing alongside Todd Vogt from the Portland Boat Club. This was the first time Gemma was chosen for the national team.

At the 2023 Para Rowing Regatta in Paris, France, Gemma won gold in the PR3 mixed double sculls event. This was her international debut on the Paralympic course in Vaires-sur-Marne.

Gemma’s success continued as she won a silver medal at the 2023 World Rowing Championships. This valuable experience helped her earn a spot on the Paralympic team.

Getting selected for the Paralympics was once unimaginable for Gemma. But after joining the selection camp on January 4th, she knew she had a good chance. Her dream came true when she was chosen at the end of camp.

Gemma will compete in the PR3 mixed four with coxswain event at the Paralympics, alongside four other rowers. With a silver medal already won, Gemma’s ultimate goal is a gold medal.

The Paralympic Games are still eight months away, but Gemma will prepare almost daily to face the best competition in the world. Beyond the water, Gemma wants to use the Paralympics to raise awareness about disabilities.