Cameron Winklevoss had a busy 2008. He and his twin brother Tyler raced as the USA M2- in the Olympics, finishing an impressive sixth place. He also settled a lawsuit with Facebook on the grounds that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg copied their idea in 2004.
row2k: You were in 5th place with 500 to go and 4 seconds out of qualifying position before sprinting to second place in the Olympic semifinal. What was that race like and was that sprint something you knew you had in you going into the regatta?
Cameron Winklevoss: We spent a lot of time working on the last 500m leading up to the games. We worked with Ted Nash on finding that extra gear, and it's a gear we have been able to tap more and more in the last year or so as we've been getting more confident with pacing and learning how to unload towards the line, as well as developing more physically. When you row around a guy like Dan Beery, and you see his explosive ability to seemingly single-handedly move an entire 8 in 10 strokes (sometimes the boat actually feels like its breaking apart), you realize what is possible. We sometimes joke about his "old man strength", but I think there is some truth to it. The older you get and the more mature you are, the more you are able to do things that you weren't able to make happen before.
With regards to the semi-final race, our approach was to stay in contact with the field, hope that they had expended too much energy to stay out in front and as a result pay the price in the last 500. We had the fitness to hang, what we lacked was the experience, which of course creates the uncertainty. The semifinals are the big bottle neck into the finals, and we knew that in order to advance we would have to beat several pairs with much more experience and pedigrees than ourselves. In short, we were the underdogs, nothing to lose, only something to gain. So we didn't expect to lead, and convinced ourselves to be comfortable if a boat was out perhaps 1-2 lengths on us (but no farther!). In that sense, we could use being down to our advantage.
Ted told us that at 1,500 he was going to yell out and ask "who are you?" I've never been too much of a believer in catch-phrases, or the larger effects of external motivation, but for us it was definitely a moment of truth when we crossed the 1500 and we heard Ted's roaring question "Who are you?!" and Jason Read and Chris Liwski urging us on from the bike path. I could sense that the Italians to our starboard had stopped moving out and had started to fall back into us from 1,500-1,750. Blood was in the water, and I could smell it. During the previous 1,500 meters we tried to hold contact with the field, not hemorrhage energy over the race course, and wait for the other boats to make a mistake and falter. Once I felt them falling back, I sensed the window, heard the roar, and yelled to Tyler "go now!" In a matter of 20 strokes the Italians were less than half a length up, and with 250 meters to go I knew we had done it. I've never quite hit the gear like that before in a race setting, but have thumped on it pretty hard in practice, and the practice fortunately came into the race. With 10 strokes to go I looked over to my far left, knew we had second secured, but my legs were beginning to fail and feel like Jello. Tyler verbally finished the move I had initiated with my call, and pulled me over the line. We were in the A final.
row2k: Not many people gave you a shot to make that final, what was racing in an Olympic Final like?
Cameron Winklevoss: This is true, not many people gave us a shot. We knew this, and we knew that we had never competed in the pair at a World Championship, let alone the Olympics. We didn't let it bother us, and frankly I don't blame anyone for considering us a long shot, given all of the statistics, of which there were not much ;), but we knew that we had something to give that the World had not seen yet. I was honored to be lining up against the guys that I had read about and looked up to. And was further pumped when a couple of them that I saw after racing and complimented myself and Tyler on our 6th place finish and our sprint in the Semi. Being the only boat in the final who had been in the reps, it was clear that this was a learning Regatta for us, and that we had made some great leaps and bounds in our rowing. That being said, I would have preferred not to have had an extra 2k under my belt! In the final we didn't get off the blocks as well as we would have liked, and ultimately let the field get out too far. Losing contact with the pack makes it very difficult to come back. You always need to go into the Olympics hoping and dreaming for a medal, but you also have to be realistic with yourself when it's all said and done. For us, making the A final was beyond expectations, and we were proud to be rowing among such athletes. Perhaps a medal next time?!
row2k: How did you determine which one of you would stroke the pair?
Cameron Winklevoss: We have raced different lineups in the NSRs over the years, but I think the last 2 years it has worked well with myself stroking. I like to control things, so sometimes I'm not the best follower!
row2k: You settled with Facebook last year after a long legal fight. Which accomplishment was more fulfilling for you and why?
Cameron Winklevoss: A bit of an apples and oranges comparison, but I think it's fair to say nothing feels quite like hitting your athletic potential. Hitting a PR on an erg test, or winning a race can sometimes be unparalleled. With athletics there is such a tangible connection between work output and gain, that it is truly exhilarating when that comes to fruition right before your own eyes in real-time. Most of the things I've learned and apply to other parts of my life revolve around what I have learned while training years for a personal best performance. Nothing has tested me in life like rowing, and I am fairly confident nothing ever quite will. To have been able to reach the top of this sport is tremendously satisfying. It is something that no one can take away from you and something that no one can achieve without merit; it's unbelievable.
row2k: Now that you've competed at every level of the sport, which race stands out to you as your favorite and why?
Cameron Winklevoss: I really enjoyed winning IRA my senior year at Harvard in 2004. The boat was a tremendous group of individuals and athletes that I treasured. We worked hard, and when we went to the line we raced with a fearless aggression. I really learned a lot of about training and racing from those guys, in addition to being great friends off the water. So being able to share a medals dock with them and a wonderful trip that summer in Europe that included Lucerne and Henley was simply magical. A true band of brothers, the "God Squad", named because some team members were very religious and others fashioned themselves as Adonis-like Gods (I won't say who was who!).
That being said, it's sometimes the losses that have the greatest effect on where you end up. I can remember in high school losing to older guys and just being so excited to get back to training to get better and stronger so I could beat them next time. Every race has a silver lining, each one can teach you something positive if you let it, and it is this amalgamation that makes you the rower you are.
row2k: What are you up to now and what does the future hold for you?
Cameron Winklevoss: Right now I have been staying fit, and determining whether I will try and row this summer. I am also considering going for London 2012, but haven't made a decision yet.