Tom Darling said he wasn't feeling "the flash" Sunday morning just before picking up the handles to his erg inside the Walter Pyramid on the Campus of Long Beach State University. Ukraine's Olena Buryak had a bit of the same trepidation even before she walked into the arena.
"I had a hard morning," Buryak said. "I woke up, and felt like I am nobody, I come with nothing. I don't want to compete. But, I thought, I have to honor the race."
For Germany's Oliver Zeidler, there wasn't enough time on the ground in the US to adjust to the nine-hour time difference from where he trains at home, having just arrived late Friday. But with the competition that was lined up with a busload of US national team men from the nearby Oakland Training Center, he was pumped for another indoor competition.
He had not lost one before Sunday in his career, so time difference or not, he was ready.
Feeling less than flashy, or even thinking about just not showing up - in the end it didn't matter when the racing started at the all-day, triple-event erg festival in Long Beach, California that was all folded into and around the second World Rowing Indoor Championships.
Organized between FISA, USRowing, and the Long Beach Rowing Association, some 750 athletes of every age group and category piled into the Long Beach arena and let it rip.
Events ran from 8 AM to 5 PM, and by the time it ended, medals were awarded, and both World and US Championships were earned in the World Rowing Indoor Championships, and the USRowing Indoor National Championships, and the Long Beach Sprints.
In some cases, like Darling's for example, one pull earned him two titles - World and US Champion in his masters men age group - plus a new record. Apparently, the flash happened. And when he finished, Darling pulled one second faster than the 6:21.7 he pulled a week earlier in Boston at the C.R.A.S.H.-B Sprints.
"Glad that's over," said Darling, a two-time US Olympian. "Like I said, I wasn't feeling very flash today, but you know, I was rowing in the World Rowing Championships, so I figured I'd put out a little extra. I feel good now, man."
This is the second year that World Rowing has held an indoor World Championships, and the second time it was held in the US and paired with another event. Last year it was held in Alexandria, Virginia, and partnered with the Erg Sprints.
It was the first for USRowing to host an Indoor National Championship. Next year FISA will host the World Rowing event in Paris, France. Both USRowing and FISA sent a full contingent of official representatives to be on hand for the event, including FISA President Jean-Christophe Rolland, who said holding the World Rowing Indoor Championship was an effort to expand FISA's involvement in the sport.
"The indoor is developing very, very much," he said. "We are very happy to start this World Rowing Indoor Championships process. It's a good way to enlarge the community of rowers in the world. We know it's a different type of rowing. It's not the rowing we know. But it's important that we can have more people connected to our sport, and this is a discipline that we really want to work."
Of the athletes named world champions, among the first to be crowned was Britain's Sean Gaffney, who won the men's PR3 (legs, trunk and arms) event. Gaffney said he had a little trouble getting started, but recovered and won.
"You always have a plan in your mind how you want to do the race," Gaffney said. "And being in the military, we're fully aware that no plan survives contact. So, within the first stroke, that plan had already gone out the window.
"There was a little glitch at the beginning of the first stroke, but I could can sense that other people hadn't started well. As my first stroke was not correct, I tried to recover, then I overcompensated on the way, and paid the price later on. The point is to win, so a successful day at the office. I'm very, very happy, very proud."
After the adaptive and masters events, the main focus switched to U19, lightweight, and open athletes. The event organizers got the seeding right, and for the most part, the top guns were seated next to each other, or no more than one machine away.
Team Germany won both the men's and women's U19 events. Germany's Alexandra Foster won the world title, with Taylor English from Y Quad Cities finishing second next to her, going stroke for stroke, and taking the US title.
Taylor English battles Alexandra Foster
In the men's U19, Jan Henrik Szymczak took the World Championship. Finishing third but taking the top US prize was Nashville Rowing's Clinton Regen.
"It was a very aggressive race," Szymczak said. "We started very aggressive and ended very aggressive. It was not the best race, but it was okay. When I heard there were so many good guys pulling, it was very hard for me to concentrate, and to find my focus. But in the end, I am happy, and it's a very nice feeling."
A highlight for the US national team was helping train and support 2016 Olympic coxswain Katelin Guregian, who decided to enter the open lightweight event in December. Guregian, took a world silver medal in 8:07.7, and won the US title.
"I’m really, really proud of myself right now," she said. "It was really hard because you can hear all these people talking and chatting, and I was erging in a place I've never erged before, and in an environment that I never want to work out in ever again. It was hard because the erg screen is different than it normally is and it started before I pulled the first stroke," she said. "Everything is not the way I want it to be when I'm trying to test. But it was pretty special."
Read about Guregian's prep for the racing here: Coxswain on the Erg: An Olympic Coxswain Rows the Machine
In the men's lightweight race, Italy's Martino Goretti and Germany's Jason Osborne were even at the thousand, but Osborne edged into the lead in the third quarter and held on to win. “I was a bit worried with Goretti at the start," Osborne said. "But I managed to hold the pace."
After the men's lightweight event, the floor was turned over to the U23 and open men and women.
If Buryak was feeling not up to competing before getting to the venue, it didn't show when the race started. She led from the start, and finished first in 6:25.6. It was not her personal best, she said, but it was enough for a new world record in the 30-39 women's category.
Buryal said she let go of her doubts the second she sat down and told herself, "I'm strong, I'm powerful, I'm brave, and people will support me. I need to do my best. It was hard for me, but it's okay. I did a new record. My goal in training was to break 6:20, so I need to do this again. But it was a great day today."
Olena Buryak racing next to Tracy Eisser
(Short note: Buryal went back to work in the Beach Sprints and won the 500-meter sprint.)
For the US, a large contingent of senior team women who have been training in Chula Vista at the Olympic Training Center most of the winter were on the floor. Brooke Mooney won the US title and finished second overall for a world silver.
"This winter, we've been very much been dialing in on fitness and just trying to make good steps as the winter goes on," Mooney said. "We've known we were going to come here probably since November. For some people, it was like, okay I'm going to get ready to go and try to PR.
"For me, instead of trying to get wrapped up in the numbers, I was just trying to make good training steps, use my fitness and just keep on building it. This was a big deal for a lot of teammates. And it was really fun to do it next to other people wearing US Training Center uni's," she said.
In the men's event, German sculler Oliver Zeidler went to the line having never lost an erg competition, and he did not lose this one, setting the pace to take the lead and holding on with 18 US national team guys going after him.
German sculler Oliver Zeidler
"It was a hard race," Zeidler said. "When you're competing with a nine-hour time difference compared to home it's hard, and the air was a bit dry today so breathing was hard. But I'm quite satisfied with the result now, becoming a champion here.
"It was definitely a good competition here against so many good guys, much better than the national team testing in Germany, where nearly every time I've got 10 seconds to the next guy. So, it was definitely more fun today."
Zeidler pulled a winning 5:42.6, with Arne Landboe from the Oakland men's training center finishing second in 5:47.4, which also secured US title.
"I'm beat," Landboe said. "It was a good piece. It's been a little while since I got a PR. I crossed the 1K feeling really good, like just really strong, and I knew I could get it, so I just went for it in the end. So, I'm happy with it.
"We're all in Oakland at the training center right now," he said. "And having everyone here personally makes me really excited. I'm so excited to be a young guy in this program, there's lot of experience and a lot of strength. It makes me really excited for what's coming."