When I was 13 years old, my parents moved to a new place in Miami, Florida near a lake. On that lake there was a man named Aldo who had several rowing boats in his backyard along with a dock and a coach. He had rowed in his native Peru when he was younger and he wanted to introduce his son to the sport. One morning my father was running along the lake and saw the rowing boats pass by. This reminded him of our home in Cuba where the national team trained and where the national regatta was held annually. He was always interested in trying it but he was told by the Cuban coach that he was too small (my dad is 6'3"). So he came back to the house, very excited and asked me to go check it out with him. That first day the coach put me on a training single to do circles, arms only for what seemed like hours. I remember being very frustrated that I didn't have much control over the balance of the boat, so like learning how to ride a bicycle, my first goal was to feel comfortable and set the boat perfectly. Little did I know that I would spend the next ten years of my life still trying to perfectly balance a rowing boat.
2. Was there a practice, race or other event when you fell in love with the sport, or when you knew you might not be too bad at rowing? When you thought you could make the national team?
I spent the first year of my rowing career just training for fun and not competing. It made sense because I was too young and there weren't many competitions for 13 year old kids. It was not until the rest of the team left for Club Nationals in the summer of 2002 that I decided that I wanted to race and not just row around for fun. From then on I didn't really look much further than my next race as they were all stepping stones for the one after. Winning the Junior B Single at Club Nationals my freshman year of high school was probably the first time I took a step back and started thinking about what I should do next. That was in 2004 and I got a laurel wreath because it was an Olympic year. I hope they still do that!
3. Best race/practice, worst race/practice?
I think one's worst/best race has less to do with your final placement and more to do with your personal performance. I learned a lot about that in high school when I started to compete outside of Florida and had some volatile results. Getting 4th at Stotesbury my junior year in high school is a race that I will always feel like I underperformed. It was also probably the race that drove me the most for the next couple of years in terms of training and competing.
Getting 2nd at Youth Nationals in the quad my sophomore year in high school was probably the race in which my boat most overperformed. We had qualified from third place in both our heat and our semifinal and were faced in the finals with five crews that we had already lost to over the weekend.
4. Best/Anything you've done in the sport no one knows about?
The most important race of my life occurred on Biscayne Bay in Miami, Florida against a shark that was following my water line. If that ever happens you're supposed to stop rowing and let him go about his business. Unfortunately, that's the last thing that you think about when you see a shark's fin following you in the single. So I rowed as hard as I could for about 200 meters before realizing that there was no way I could get away from him. Eventually, I turned towards the dock and he immediately stopped following my boat once I changed directions.
5. Any/Most important advice for young rowers?
Pressure is always overridden by opportunity.
Birthplace: Matanzas, CUB
Hometown: Miami, Fla.
Current Residence: Oklahoma City, Okla.
Club Affiliation: USRowing Training Center – Oklahoma City
Began Rowing: American Barge Club, 2001
Date of Birth: 12/13/88
High School: Miami Coral Park Senior High School, 2007
Undergraduate Education: Princeton University, 2011
Current Coaches: Marty Crotty, Bryan Volpenhein
Years on National Team: Five – 2006, Junior; 2008, 2010 Under 23; 2011-12, Senior
International Results: Won the lightweight four at the 2012 Final Olympic Qualification Regatta...Finished 13th in the lightweight four at the 2011 World Rowing Championships...Finished third in the lightweight four at the 2010 World Rowing Under 23 Championships...Won the Temple Challenge Cup at the 2009 Henley Royal Regatta…Finished 14th in the lightweight double sculls at the 2008 World Rowing Under 23 Championships...Finished 13th in the single sculls at the 2006 World Rowing Junior Championships…Finished second in the A single sculls and the B single sculls at the 2005 South American Speed Championships.
National Results: Won the lightweight eight at the 2011 Head of the Charles Regatta...Finished fifth in the lightweight varsity eight at the 2011 IRA Championships...Finished fourth in the lightweight varsity eight at the 2011 Eastern Sprints...Won the lightweight varsity eight at the 2010 IRA Championships...Won the lightweight varsity eight at the 2010 Eastern Sprints Regatta...Won the lightweight varsity eight at the 2009 IRA Championships...Won the lightweight varsity eight at the 2009 Eastern Sprints Regatta...Won the lightweight double sculls at the 2008 USRowing Under 23 World Championships Trials…Finished sixth in the freshman lightweight eight at the 2008 Eastern Sprints…Won the single sculls at the 2006 Junior World Championship Trials…Won the junior double sculls, finished second in the junior single sculls and finished third in the junior quadruple sculls at the 2005 USRowing National Championships…Finished second in the quadruple sculls at the 2005 USRowing Youth Invitational.
Personal: Robin lists winning the Temple Challenge Cup as his most memorable sporting achievement…He was born in Matanzas, Cuba.