2009 Worlds medalist Megan Walsh started the 2011 season at the US Women's winter camp in Chula Vista and is looking to end it with a strong, two-event performance at the Pan Am Games later this week. Walsh, who originally came to rowing after moving to Philadelphia to play volleyball at Villanova, is one of five members of the 2011 US Pan Am team with a medal from the Senior Worlds. She trains at Vesper and, after taking 4th in NSR2's doubles final and narrowly missing the singles final at Senior Trials, she teamed up with Penn AC's Catherine Reddick. Together they locked up a spot on the Pan Am team in the Women's Double, and will head to Guadalajara to race both the W2x and W4x. This week's row2k Interview caught up with Walsh as the Pan Am W2x wrapped up their training on Boathouse Row.
row2k: How are preparations going for Pan Am's? Are you doing anything special to prepare?
Meg Walsh: Training for Pan Am's is going well. We've been putting in lots of miles and a fair amount of hard work. Nothing special, just training.
row2k: As a Worlds medalist and someone who has spent a lot of time in the Princeton Training Center group, are you able to approach the Pan Am's any differently than perhaps some of the athletes who are competing internationally for the first time, or have not made an international podium?
Meg Walsh: International racing, for me, is about fun. I see making the team as a privilege and a reward for training hard and performing well. The World Championships as well as the Pan Am games are the time when you put everything you've learned together and see how far it gets you.
row2k: Your double is a classic Boathouse Row composite crew--half Vesper, half Penn AC--so how did your partnership with Catherine Reddick come together? Had you rowed together before, or just known each other as Boathouse Row rivals?
Meg Walsh: Reddick and I had not rowed together before, but we've both spent a lot of time training on "the Row." The pairing was actually made by my former coach and mentor, Michiel Bartman. He brought us together and worked with us briefly before taking the head coaching position with Radcliffe's lightweight women.
row2k: There's been some discussion--and a proposed rule change--about the way the uniform rule was interpreted and enforced at Trials. Just for the record, how did your composite boat comply once you found out about the change? Any thought on whether this rule should be changed, to allow athletes in composite crews to wear their own colors?
Meg Walsh: I was in charge of uniforms for trials, so we raced in white tops and black bottoms. I'm sure Catherine would have preferred her giant golden eagle uni or perhaps some neon animal print, but that's just not my style.
As far as whether the rule should be changed, I can't say, since I'm unsure of the original intent. If the rule exists merely to mimic FISA rules, I think it should be amended to allow composite crews to represent their respective clubs.
row2k: The Pan Am format has you doubling into the quad, with Chelsea Smith and Michelle Sechser, the light women's double. Has the added race changed the training or focus for you in the double? How much time have you been able to spend in the quad, since the LW2x is based in Oklahoma City?
Meg Walsh: To date we haven't spent any time training in the quad. We are hoping to get in a couple rows once we get to Ciudad Guzman.
row2k: Since individual countries were able to decide how to double up in different ways, some athletes in your events might be racing once and some twice. How do you see that factoring into what you expect to see on the race course?
Meg Walsh: To be honest I'm not sure how other countries/athletes are doubling up. In my mind the only thing worth focusing on is the one we have control over--our boat. At this level everyone works hard, trains hard and is fit. Catherine and I have enough fitness and experience to handle our racing schedule.
row2k: To look past Pan Am's a bit, what are your goals for 2012, and how do you see the racing at Pan Am's fitting into your approach to next year?
Meg Walsh: Racing experience, especially international racing experience, is always a good thing. Pan Am's will provide me with more opportunities to learn and grow as an athlete. Anything I gain from this experience can only help me coming into Olympic trials and selection.
row2k: We've been asking folks in these interviews about races that are particularly memorable or instructive: do any come to mind for you?
Meg Walsh: Memories of previous races play in my mind's eye like an old school film reel. I see still-life photos but these images trigger memories. Memories of sound - the slight sucking sound the water makes as the oars enter the water - the sound of my breath as it cycles in time with each stroke. Memories of emotions and lessons learned, usually the hard way.
An overwhelming number of my racing memories are of these defining moments - of lessons learned the hard way. That is not to say that my experience hasn't been a positive one, because it has been wonderful. Perhaps it is just the nature of the beast to remember the hard moments - the moments of growth.
One such moment was my first attempt to make the national team. After a brief, but rigorous selection camp my 3 newly assigned boatmates and I headed to 4- trials. With 250m left in a solidly executed final we had a bobble and lost our narrow lead and the bid to non-Olympic worlds. That 0.03 second loss became my motivation to take up sculling.