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row2k 2011 Worlds Blog

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Blog Contributors
Ed Hewitt
Ed Hewitt is the publisher of
Erik Dresser
Erik Dresser is row2k's Assistant Editor
Gevvie Stone
First-time Olympian Gevvie Stone is the USA W1x
Jamie Redman
World Champion Jamie Redman rows in the USA W8+
Jimmy Sopko
Three-time senior team member Jimmy Sopko rows in the USA LM8+
John FX Flynn
John is row2k's East Coast correspondent & resident results-monger
Kristin Hedstrom
Three-time senior team member Kristin Hedsrom sculls the bow seat of the USA LW2x
Megan Kalmoe
Olympian Megan Kalmoe is the 3-seat of the USA W4x
Rares Crisan
Crisan is a member of the Canadian LM4-
Trish Downing
Wheelchair racer and triathlete, USA ASW1x Trish Downing is making her World Rowing debut
Most Recent Posts
Getting to London, Final Look
posted by: John FX Flynn (September 4, 2011)
click for full size image!

USA M4x making sure they are 'On to London'

Final installment of row2k's daily look at which US crews are On to London, and which are now Facing Final Qualification. 

On to London: W4x, W2-, W8, M4x, M2-, M1x, M4-, LW2x
The US didn't collect any more spots on the final day, and so the team returns from Bled with 8 guaranteed spots for London, out of the 14 Olympic events they entered. 

How is that as a tally? Obviously, not nearly enough for the athletes in the six boats that didn't make the cut--and particularly bad if you happen to be a lightweight male Olympic hopeful--but here is some context:

Great Britain qualified 13, the most of any nation in their run-up to the home Olympics. Team GB missed only in the W1x, and there just barely when Frances Houghton finished one place shy. Germany also went after all 14 events and gobbled up 12 spots, with just the women's eight and pair falling short (somewhat inexplicably). 

New Zealand and Australia entered fewer events, but like GB, also qualified all but one: the Kiwis went 11 for 12, faltering in the M8, and the Aussies went 10 for 11, with just Nick Hudson in the single running into trouble.

The US total of eight ranks next, tied with China (which also went 8 for 14) followed by the seven spots collected by Canada and Italy, both of which missed in three of the ten events they contested: Canada falling short in the LM4-, W2-, and W2x; Italy in the M2x, M1x, and W4x. (China, for the record, missed in both eights, the M2-, M2x, M4-, and M4x).

Facing Final Qualification: M2x, LM4-, LM2x, M8+, W2x, W1x
Any US athletes hoping to race in these events at the London Games will have to win their respective trials in early spring, then head to Lucerne in the late spring and secure a podium-worthy performance--or better--before a summer in London is even an option. Whoa: no wonder one New Zealand paper is already calling the Final Qualifier the "regatta of death." Here, again, is just how high the stakes are for each crew:

Men's eight: must finish first
Men's double: must finish top two
Women's double: must finish top two
Women's single: must finish top three
Light Men's four: must finish top two
Light Men's double: must finish top two

Of course it is hard to say just who the competition will be, but it is a good bet that the competition will be stiff. New Zealand's eight is already planning to go and it is hard to imagine Canada's lightweight four skipping the Olympics altogether. Add to that a host of European sculling nations, and that weekend in Lucerne promises to be a heater.

Paralympic Qualification
On the Adaptive side, which we've also been watching, the criterion in all four events was a top-eight finish, so the US won two spots there, when the LTAMix Four and Ron Harvey, in the ASM1x, made the A Finals.  

In the other two events, the ASW1x and TAMix2x, the US adaptive athletes made the B Final, but finished in 10th and 9th respectively, so those boats will need to be qualified with a good result next summer in order to make it to the Paralympics.

Olympic Qualification Summary - USA (Final)
14 Olympic Events total
In = 8 - W4x, W2-, W8, M4x, M2-, M1x, M4-, LW2x
Out = 6 - M2x, LM4-, LM2x, M8+, W2x, W1x

See also: 
Getting to London Tuesday update
Getting to London Wednesday update
Getting to London Thursday update 
Getting to London Friday update 
Getting to London Saturday update

USA M4x making sure they are 'On to London' - Click for full-size image!

World Champions!!
posted by: Jamie Redman (September 4, 2011)
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Celebrating World Championship

Six minutes, three seconds: the past ten months of training, the hundreds of kilometers on the water, the gallons and gallons of sweat… and it all came down to the six minutes and three-point-six-five seconds. The competition was tight, and the rowing wasn’t always pretty, but when those six-odd minutes were over, it was the American bowball that crossed the finish line first. 
At the close of our prerace pep talk, Coach reminded us of Olympic qualification. “Just try to get top five,” he said, only half-joking. We were strong and fast enough to contend for the gold, he told us, but if a catastrophe should occur (as it did in 2003), we should fight to the death for that fifth qualifying position. So when we crossed the 500m mark in fifth place, I suppose Coach might’ve worried that we took his final advice a little too seriously!
Great Britain, Netherlands, Canada, Romania, and China were all extremely fast off the start, and the first few minutes found us in the back of the pack (eek!). However, Mary kept us from panicking or becoming frazzled. Our lane was right in between Great Britain and Canada; the two English-speaking coxswains could’ve rattled our concentration, but we had prepared for the distractions during our pre-race visualization… amidst all the yelling coxswains and splashing oars and cheering spectators, Mary’s voice was the only sound we heard.  And because all eight rowers were absolutely focused on their coxswain, when she told us to move, we MOVED!
Gradually, seat by seat, we worked our way back through the field.  We pushed our way through Great Britain and the Netherlands, but the Canadian crew was determined to hold our charge. As we crossed the 1500m mark, we were neck and neck. I don’t remember too much of the next ninety-seconds: exercise-induced amnesia, if you will. My lungs were burning, I couldn’t feel my legs, I heard Mary call for the final build, and I just prayed that we would make it to the line before my arms fell off!
But all of our training paid off during that final sprint, and the Americans earned the gold medal by point-seven seconds!  An absolutely thrilling race! 
As we stood on the medals dock and listened to the national anthem, I felt so honored and proud to be wearing the red, white, and blue. This 2011 Final was a telling preview of the tight and intense racing we can expect at the 2012 Olympics.  This was not an easy victory for the Americans: Canada fought us for every single inch. In fact, every boat in our final displayed impressive speed and racing strategy, as evidenced by the tight margins between first and fifth place. We will have to work especially diligently during the next eleven months to defend our title!
What’s on tap for the next few weeks? Well, under the new Worlds schedule, there are still two days of finals. So I plan to cheer on my teammates, enjoy the sunshine, and sample Bled’s many tourist attractions. Then Mom and I are off for a week’s tour of the Slovenian Alps (!!), before I head back to New Jersey to recommence training.  Thank you so much for all your messages and positive support! I could not have achieved this success without all your encouragement!
P.S.  I just discovered that I might or might not have added the wrong postage to all my postcards. Oops. But never fear, they should arrive by Christmas…

Celebrating World Championship - Click for full-size image!
Redman and Polk on podium - Click for full-size image!
World Champs - Click for full-size image!

Getting to London, Fifth Look
posted by: John FX Flynn (September 3, 2011)
click for full size image!

USA M4 now 'On to London'

row2k's daily look at which US crews are On to London, Still Alive, or now Facing Final Qualification. 

The USA finally had a big day in Bled, grabbing five of the remaining seven Olympic bids they are chasing. Two came from making the A Final outright, in the M4 and LW2x, leaving those crews to concentrate on medals in the Final without the worry of qualification. The other three came on the last try, in the sort of all-to-chance B Finals these Championships have been rife with. 

On to London: M4x, M2-, M1x, M4-, LW2x
All week, we've seen crews exultant to qualify before their final race, and the US finally had two crews today who could celebrate just that. The M4- rowed an exceptional semi, coming in second just behind the GB four, and can now focus on a medal with the London berth secured. The LW2x, on a tear all year, took perhaps the most important step of all today: coming in a comfortable third to move to the final and lock up London--and likely doing so without showing all of their cards. 

In "last chance" B Finals, the M4x, M2- and M1x all made the top 11 overall and emerged with bids intact. The quad raced ahead of the cut line the whole way, moving from fourth to third to second in the end, catching everyone but the much chagrined GBR quad who'd figured to medal in Bled, at the very least. The pair flirted with the back of the back as late as the third 500, but another stunning drop of the hammer nearly pushed them as high as second and they took third by open water.

Men's single sculler Ken Jurkowski cut it the closest, down a bit in last at the thousand and finishing in fifth for the 11th and final spot. He's a canny racer, though, and he really did all he needed to do: there were no prizes better than the Olympic spot on offer, and any spot but last was good for London.

Still Alive: W1x
The last bid still undecided for the US rests in the hands of Gevvie Stone in the W1x. Stone had a chance to qualify today by making the A Final, but that would have required a more than mild upset. That said, she raced well in the semi, running fourth much of the way before heading to the B Final in fifth. Racing in that petite will be tough, since only the top three finishers can qualify, but her times today show her very much in the mix. That's a good spot to be in for a relatively young sculler who missed the semis in Lucerne altogether (if barely)--and, as we've seen with qualifying all week, anything can happen out on the race course.

Facing Final Qualification: W2x
The US did wind up on the wrong side of one tight finish today, when the W2x lost their dual with China for second place in the B Final of that event. Just 2.5 seconds separated first through third, but Germany and China got the last two spots, and the W2x will be the one crew on the women's side that will have to race the Qualifier next June.

Olympic Qualification Summary - USA (as of Saturday)
14 Olympic Events total
In = 8 - W4x, W2-, W8, M4x, M2-, M1x, M4-, LW2x
Out = 5 - M2x, LM4-, LM2x, M8+, W2x
TBD = 1 (W1x)

See also: 
Getting to London Tuesday update
Getting to London Wednesday update
Getting to London Thursday update 
Getting to London Friday update


USA M4 now 'On to London' - Click for full-size image!

Funday Sunday
posted by: Jimmy Sopko (September 2, 2011)
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Set for Sunday now

Getting your first race out of the way at any regatta is a relief.  The first race at the World Championships in the lightweight 8 is another level all together.  Most of the US crews at this year’s world championships have raced this summer and they know who is fast.  They also know where they stack up in the mix and have had time to work on things to get faster and make improvements.  We went in to yesterday blind.

The lightweight men’s 8 is not an Olympic event.  We did not race at this year’s world cup series and yesterday was our first 2k where we lined up against someone.  It was a little nerve-racking.  We knew that there was speed in this line-up, but what we didn’t know was what everyone else had.  The only prior result was that Italy beat Denmark at the Lucerne World Cup 7 weeks ago.  

Italy is a perennial powerhouse in the lightweight men’s 8.  We knew they were going to be fast and we knew Denmark lost to them, but not by much.  Then there is France, whose stern pair won the lightweight men’s pair at the 2010 World Championships in New Zealand.  So they’re fast.  Then there is Australia, who is returning at least 6 guys from last year’s 8 that placed 2nd, beating the Italians who got 3rd and us, who placed 5th.  Basically, everyone is fast.  

So our plan was to row our race.  We had a malleable race plan based on what we and our coach (Dan Roock) had seen over the past 6 weeks.  The tricky part is that whenever we did pieces, they were solo; us against the clock and none of the pressure of another crew screaming next to you, distracting you.  So yesterday was our test run. 

The test went well.  However, Sunday is funday.  Everyone will show up with strong intentions of beating us.  That is when the race is real and now we have a result against other crews in our event to build off of.  The race yesterday was tight and the finals always seem to be a little tighter.  We’ll bring our A game and put it all on the line.  That’s all you can do.

- Jimmy


Set for Sunday now - Click for full-size image!

Getting to London, Fourth Look
posted by: John FX Flynn (September 2, 2011)
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USA W8: 'On to London' as World Champs

row2k's daily look at which US crews are On to London, Still Alive, or now Facing Final Qualification. 

US Women's eight takes care of business, and will head to London to defend the Olympic title. Friday's semis and finals could have ended with as many as five Olympic bids in hand, but misses in the four US semis today deferred the final reckoning in the M4x, M2-, W2x and M1x. 

On to London: W8
No such thing as a foregone conclusion in any event, but the USA Women's eight, a five-time defending champion who laid down the fastest heat time, sure looked like a good bet to take the top five finish they needed to qualify. The US certainly looked like they were taking a "qualify first, then chase the leader" approach, and the result was a thrilling duel with Canada that the Americans won in the end, again.

Still Alive: M4x, M2-, W2x, M1x
The four US crews in today's semifinals could have qualified by winning a spot in the A Final, but fourth for the M2-, and fifth in the W2x, M4x, and M1x means a trip to the petites across the board. All are still alive, though, and will have a shot at London when they race the B Final on Saturday.

The women's double will have to match the pair's result from Thursday: only 1st or 2nd in the B Final is good enough for London. For the M4x, M2-, and M1x, the door is propped a bit wider: 5th or better in the petite would give them the top 11 finish FISA requires. 

The M4-, LW2x, and Gevvie Stone in the W1x also with a chance to wrap up qualification on Saturday, in the semis of those three events, by making it to the A Final. That won't be the final chance for those events: the M4- and LW2x will still have a top 11 shot in the B Final, if needed, while the top 3 spots in the W1x petite still count for London.

These "top 11" crews might sound like they have it made even in the B Final--just one crew to beat right?--but Friday's B Finalists in the LM4- might beg to differ. With one crew destined to be out of the London running, that final saw the WHOLE field within 1.8 seconds at the line, a closed-water finish that put South Africa in the final spot by just 0.6 over Serbia. Wow.  

Facing Final Qualification: 
No changes to this category on Friday

Olympic Qualification Summary - USA (as of Friday)
14 Olympic Events total
In = 3 - W4x, W2-, W8
Out = 4 - M2x, LM4-, LM2x, M8+
TBD = 7

USA W8: 'On to London' as World Champs - Click for full-size image!

Oy! Here's the bad news...
posted by: Trish Downing (September 1, 2011)
What an experience this has been! Today capped my World Championships journey and although I did not end in the fashion I had hoped, I can’t walk away (or even roll away) with my head down. Needless to say, my race did not turn out the way I had hoped. What seemed like a doable task (finishing 8th place or higher) ended up being the prize that got away.  There’s not too much to tell about my race. Simply put, I made mistakes and was just not fast enough to make up for them. Right on the start I buried my left blade and my first stroke was off. So was my second and probably my third. Once I finally got into rhythm, I tried to put myself back in the race, but I just don’t have the rowing fitness, skill and technique I need yet to come back from such a bad start. I gave it everything I had though, which I am proud about and kept my mental talk positive, which for me is a good step, because I can tend to be unforgiving with myself about mistakes. I stayed with it through the end, but in the end it just wasn’t enough. Not only did I not get 8th, but I didn’t get 9th, either. I will have to settle with being 10th. And, now It’s up to me to decide if I want to think of it as getting a measley 10th place or being 10th in the world.

However, I can’t say that my time in Slovenia was a loss. Yes, I am disappointed I couldn’t earn a slot for the U.S. at the Paralympics. Fortunately, there is another chance in Belgrade next May and I intend to make another run at my goal. But in some ways, I am glad that things turned out the way they did. Had I come in here and cleaned up or even been in the top six, I might wonder about the state of Paralympic rowing at the World level. Considering that I have been rowing for four months, to think that I should be on par with the top women here, would belittle the sport. But I can confidently say, that rowing is alive and well at the World level and will require me to put forth every bit of effort I can muster, in order to add up. And for me, that’s what makes sports worthwhile. It’s the journey, the challenge, and doing the things that you never thought possible. That is why I’ve been so addicted and dedicated to the Ironman distance of triathlon. It’s not the eight hour training rides I love (they are actually quite boring, if you want to know the truth), but it’s knowing that you can do something that few other people can do. It’s knowing that you laid it all out there in blood, sweat and tears to accomplish amazing things.  And that’s what I want for my rowing. I don’t want to go out there and say I won with no effort. If and when I stand (or sit) atop a podium, I want to know that I earned every ounce of that medal. That I worked hard and reached deep.

Last week when I got here, I was having a conversation with Natalie, who is here from England assisting the U.S. Adaptive Rowing Team. She came here, on her own dime, because she wanted to be part of our support team and coaching staff. And when I remarked on how much money she had to spend, just to volunteer her time to our cause, she told me that it was worth every penny. She said that she decided long ago that experiences, not things, were what life was about. She said that for her it wasn’t the absence of things in her life that would cause her the greatest regret, but the absence of experience.

When I look at my time at the World Championships in that way, Bled has been an absolute success. In the past ten days I have had the opportunity to wear the red, white and blue and represent my country; meet new friends from all over the globe and got to cheer for my competitor and new friend Moran, from Israel, who earned the bronze in our category; got to laugh with and spend time with great teammates and coaches; and gained more knowledge and skill in my event so that I can go home and know just what I want and need to accomplish in the coming months.

Some people will say that winning is everything or that it is the only thing. And don’t get me wrong, I LIKE to win. I WANT to win. But this time, experience is the teacher and I am the student. So I won’t leave here deflated, but rather renewed in my vision of the athlete I want to become.

Tricia Downing

Getting to London, Third Look
posted by: John FX Flynn (September 1, 2011)
click for full size image!

USA W2- is 'On to London'

row2k's daily look at which US crews are On to London, Still Alive, or now Facing Final Qualification. 

Thursday's racing centered on just two Olympic spots for the USA, and all hinged on whether the Men's eight and women's pair could salvage a bid in their respective B Finals

On to London: W2-
After missing the A Final, the W2- needed to be at least second in the petite, and after a wild race, the US got it done, just: in the 8th and final spot, and in there by inches. The Italians prevailed in a four-way battle that went the full 2k, while the US took the last London spot in a photo finish over Canada. The Canadians and fourth place Germany lost out on the chance for London altogether here. Germany's sweep women, having also missed the cut in the eight already, now face the prospect of zero guaranteed spots in London.

Still Alive: Five for Friday
No changes to this category on Thursday, but Friday's racing could see the US lock up at least five bids, including the Women's eight. Here's how:

The women's eight, racing in the A final after winning their heat easily, needs to finish fifth or better to qualify; the sixth place crew will be left to face the final qualifier next June.

The four US crews in Friday's semifinals--M4x, M2-, W2x, and Ken Jurkowski in the 1x--can grab an Olympic spot outright by making the A Final, but none can be eliminated from the qualification race on Friday. The M4x, M2-, and M1x could still qualify from the B final by finishing 11th or better overall, while the W2x would be safe anywhere in the top eight spots. 

Facing Final Qualification: Men's 8
Ukraine harried the US right to the line in the semi yesterday, and finished the job today, winning the petite and snatching the final Olympic qualifying spot. The US M8 started down, then charged through France, the Czechs, and China, but could not catch the Ukranians. So, just eight years removed from Olympic Gold and four from the bronze in Beijing, the US men's eight now faces the very real possibility of missing the London Games altogether.  

For the men's eights, only one spot is available at the Final Qualification regatta, so an outright win next June is now the USA's only chance to keep up a run of Olympic appearances that stretches back (apart from the 1980 boycott) to the very first Olympiad. It is hard to predict who the US men might face, but the Qualifier will also be the only recourse for the Czech Republic, New Zealand, and a French program that also has a quartet of World Champions who missed qualifying in the four. Since we are already speculating wildly here, it is also quite possible that an entry from the Italians or Russians, both of who skipped the eight in 2011, could make an appearance. Daunting indeed, and a tremendous disappointment for USRowing. 

Olympic Qualification Summary - USA (as of Thursday)
14 Olympic Events total
In = 2 - W4x, W2-
Out = 4 - M2x, LM4-, LM2x, M8+
TBD = 8

See also: 
Getting to London Tuesday update
Getting to London Wednesday update

USA W2- is  'On to London' - Click for full-size image!

The Waiting Game
posted by: Jamie Redman (September 1, 2011)
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Redman at start of Monday's heat

With only a day until our Final, it’s not surprising that we’re all starting to feel a little bit antsy. At our team meeting last night, Coach gave us some sage advice for surviving the next twenty-four hours: “Rest, stay healthy, and try not to drive each other crazy.” Wise, wise words.

Everyone has a different method for coping with the restless energy and anxious excitement that thrives in this prerace atmosphere.  Some rowers find outlet through cerebral pursuits, and spend their hours reading books or solving crossword puzzles. Others become rowing aficionados, and eagerly watch the live feed in the hotel lobby, offering their opinion on all matters of technical advice and racing strategy.

But for many of us, these pre-race hours witness an unusual (and often hilarious!) regression into childish distractions.   A prime example: at the 2009 Worlds in Poland, my roommate and I spent hours creating an elaborate “tapestry” with the hotel stationary and a deluxe box of Crayola crayons.  Juvenile? Perhaps. But did it keep the pre-race jitters at bay?  Absolutely!

The past few days in Bled have seen some similar antics. The evening after our heat, still a bit loopy from our postrace nap, we spent an entire bus ride bedazzling ourselves (and several unsuspecting athletes!) with “Happy 4th of July!” stickers. Several boatmates delightedly grew a crop of sponge animals in the bathtub. And last night, Esther’s collection of rubber duckies made an appearance during our ice bath in the alpine stream, much to the amusement of chuckling onlookers. As for myself, I find myself enthralled by the vintage children’s movies on Slovenian cable: I sat captivated for almost ninety minutes as I watched a ten-year-old Elijah Wood discover the meaning of “family” under the guidance of Bruce Willis in a pink Easter Bunny costume. (I think the movie is called “North”… definitely Oscar-worthy! ha).

In twenty-four hours, this waiting game will be over, and we’ll go back to the educated, sophisticated, and mature young women we are. But until then, we’ll do what we can to stay sane, even if sanity requires that we resort to childlike pastimes.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some Disney movies to get back to…


Redman at start of Monday's heat - Click for full-size image!

What I Have Learned About Rowing
posted by: Trish Downing (September 1, 2011)
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Not in Oklahoma anymore . . .

As I sat in my boat at the launch yesterday and looked down into the turquoise water, I could see all the way down to the bottom of the lake. “I’m not in Oklahoma anymore, I thought.” Long gone is the brown Oklahoma river and replaced with this pristine body of water. In every direction you turn, all you notice is the natural beauty of Lake Bled. Surrounded by trees and mountains, there could not be a more amazing setting for this race. But, as Muff pushed me off the dock, my surroundings were little consolation for the anxiety that was building inside of me. But, strangely enough, those feelings didn’t have much to do with the actual competition, but more about would I do everything correctly and following procedure? There are traffic lane rules out on the course for warming up, pulling up to the start docks and getting there on time, getting into the best starting position and stroking off in a straight line. These are all things the newbie has to contend with and I was no different. But soon, each country and lane was announced, then the word “attention” and the red stoplight in front my eyes turned to green and we were off.

In my mind, I break my race into four 250m sections, so I don’t get overwhelmed thinking about the full 1000m. The first is for getting off the line and building power. The second is where I get into my rhythm, the third is a big test of how well I can sustain my chosen rhythm/pace and the fourth, if possible, I want to pick it up for the finish. During my first race, it went pretty well, except a few missed strokes and no pick-up in the end (because I was dead), but every race is experience and I felt good about my first effort. When I finished that race and was cooling down and heading back to the launch, I was assessing how racing in rowing was like or different than the sports I have competed in, in the past. For me, it’s nothing like triathlon, other than breaking the race down in parts and not thinking of the end while you’re some place in the middle. As in, don’t think about the run when you’re on the swim or don’t think about the 4th 250 when you’re on the second. Things like that. But in terms of how I feel when I am racing and when I am done, it reminds me of track cycling—specifically, the pursuit event. What  I remember about doing pursuit races both on my single bike and as a tandem pilot, there was such a specific and intense mixture of pain and euphoria at the end of the race, that I have not felt since and definitely don’t feel doing triathlons. Part of it is that there is no coasting in rowing. No, let-me-take-a break-for-a-second-and-recover.  It’s go, go, go once you start.  I guess it’s the sprint kind of pain where your lungs burn and you’re muscles feel this gripping soreness, like you’ve pushed all of the power out of them and they just want to wilt. It’s hard to explain in words, but I loved having that feeling because it reminded me of being back on the track bike when all I wanted to do after the race was stop pedaling but you couldn’t ( because for one, you’d get thrown over the handle bars) because your legs would just seize up if you didn’t keep them moving. It’s a satisfying, if painful feeling and it makes you realize you put it all out there. And, not only was it satisfying, but I think that was truly the first moment in my rowing  journey that I realized I could actually fall in love with this sport. 

Not in Oklahoma anymore . . . - Click for full-size image!

Worlds Racing Update
posted by: Trish Downing (August 31, 2011)
click for full size image!
There are so many things to write about my week in Slovenia, but we’ll see how long I can stay awake to report them. Needless to say, I have learned that rowing really takes it out of you. This week has been full of long days, time spent in the hot sun, frustrations getting my boat set up and training.

But now that training time is over, the 90-95 degree days are beyond us, the boat is dialed in and the training is in the bank, the second part of our journey has begun. Racing started Monday and I have a very specific task in front of me. My job is to come in, in the top 8 in my classification in order to qualify the United States a spot for next year’s Paralympic Games. Should I do that, it will be one goal down. But that doesn’t assure me that spot for London next year. Just the United States. But if I don’t earn that spot, well, it’s just a disadvantage going into next year. There is still a chance to earn one in 2012 before the Games, but that would require the athlete attempting to earn it (probably me, but could be anyone) to peak three times by August. Not ideal for anyone. So, to do it here, is best case scenario.

I’m not going to pretend that I am a superstar rower. I am all accounts, a rookie. Probably been rowing less than all the other girls in my division, but I do have an athletic background, the desire and the understanding of what it takes to race at the top of your game. What I am still working on, is transferring all I know about training and competing to the sport of rowing. That will take time. I guess you could say, I am thankful to be here, but would have loved to have a little more time under my belt.

Because there are twelve women in my division, we started with two heats on Monday. I raced against: Russia, France, Brazil, Korea and Belarus. We had a little bit of information about most of the racers and from that we could surmise that I could probably comfortably beat Russia, but that the others were likely out of my reach. This was not my coach and I being pessimists, but rather realists. I did need to race my hardest though to see where I shook out with the rest and see where I would fall in the overall field. As it turns out, in my heat, I was 5th out of 6 (beating Russia) and 8th overall. That was great news for me, because in the end I need to be top 8. The bad news is that the gal who came in 9th (Portugal) was only a second behind. After that first race, the winners were moved automatically to the “A” final. The rest of us would race again.

Tuesday’s results would send the top two from each heat directly to the “A” final and all the rest of us would go to the “B” final, which will be on Thursday. Therefore, no matter what I did, as long as I crossed the finish line, I would go to the “B” final (because clearly I was not going to be top two…again just being realistic…). With that in mind, Muff and I decided that my strategy would be to keep an eye on Portugal (my main competition for 8th place) and see how she raced and figure out how I am going to beat her on Thursday (should things play out the way we’ve figured based on the first day of racing times).  I went hard the first 500 meters and pulled up a little the second 500 meters so as not to beat up my body. All went to plan and I ended the day with the 7th fastest time.

Today is a rest day and then Thursday is the moment of truth. Can I end up in 8th place? I sure hope so, but it WILL be a race. And I know that on race day, anything can happen. The best can fall and those at the back of the pack can surprise you. Nothing is a given. That is why we race. That is what makes it exciting. THAT is what might make me lose a little sleep tonight. :)

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