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Detours on the Path to Making a Double Go for Davison and Graves
Wednesday, September 13, 2017
Ed Moran, row2k.com
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Ben Davison and John Graves winning Senior Trials

It took some time for Ben Davison and John Graves to take their plan of rowing the double at the world championships from the talking about/planning stages to actually racing the boat.

Both knew they wanted to give the boat a try, especially after just missing out on an opportunity to row the quad in the 2016 Olympic Games. They won Olympic trials last spring in Sarasota, but the quad finished fourth at the final Olympic qualifier, one place out of going to the Olympics.

After Lucerne, Davison and Graves talked how much work they had put into the quad preparation and felt that despite the disappointing finish, they had built a foundation for what could be a competitive double.

"We both knew that the starting point of this double would be really high since we had done so much work together in the quad last year, and that it was really worth pursuing," said Graves.

A few months later, they got together during the winter in Florida, where Davison grew up rowing on the Worlds course at Nathan Benderson Park, and reaffirmed their feeling that they wanted to row the double.

"We were kind of confident, especially after getting together this winter and rowing the boat a little bit," Graves said.

Davison rowing with Washington V8 in IRA Semifinal

There were a few hurdles to clear before getting back to it, though; in particular, Davison had taken a year off from college at the University of Washington in 2016 to row the quad and was going back for a full year in 2017.

That left Graves to figure things out on his own - so he moved into the single. Graves had a good spring, winning the 2017 Speed Order and then advancing into the Diamond Challenge Sculls final at Henley. Davison, meanwhile, rowed in the Washington varsity eight to a second-place IRA finish.

John Graves in Diamond Sculls final

They had hoped to start training after the spring season, but Davison decided to row the coxed four at the under23 trials. His crew won and then took bronze at the U23 world championships.

That left just a few weeks and a short window to get used to sculling together before rowing the double at senior trials. Everything went according to plan and they won trials. Still, the amount of work needed to blend together as a crew was behind.

At the beginning of the month, they moved to Orlando, Florida, hoping for uninterrupted time. And that was derailed last week with the arrival of Hurricane Irma. The two went to Davison's home in Inverness, on Florida's West Coast. The track of the storm was supposed to stay east.

It didn't. But Davison and Graves made it through and will be back in their boat this week. "We made it through; it was pretty brutal last night, but we are all good," Graves reported Tuesday.

Hurricane interruption aside, Davison and Graves felt they had emerged from the differences in schedule and commitments in decent shape and are looking forward to finishing the plan.

"It's been really fun the last month or so to put in the miles and work on the details of how we are going to match up perfectly," Graves said. "The boat is really starting to make that next step, which has been cool to see. At trials, you could feel the potential, but also that we had to go train together, and we had to go back to work."

For Davison, rowing with Graves at Sarasota has more meaning than just following through on a plan. Sarasota is where he competed in high school and where he began to make a name for himself in the sport.

It is also his first senior national team.

"I'm very excited for this, especially being here in Sarasota," Davison said. "It's pretty special. The senior level raises the competition and the depth of the field for sure. There are a lot of great competitors at Under-23s, but the level at the senior worlds gets higher.

"It's going really well now," he said. "I think right before trials it was a bit of a scramble with me getting back from Europe and getting here with John. There was a balance between training and getting in the boat. It's definitely been tough balancing it all."

"There were moments throughout the year when I knew it was going to be hard, especially when I decided to do the four. But I spoke to John right after I decided to do the four and there was never a question of another option. It was just, ok, the job just got a little bit tougher as far as our time to prepare, but there was never a question that we were not going to do it."

Davison and Graves at senior trials


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