row2k Features
Michigan's Zara Collisson
February 21, 2024
Erik Dresser,

Michigan senior Zara Collisson (center)

This week row2k continues our 2024 spring collegiate racing preview with an interview with Michigan senior Zara Collisson. We chat with Collisson on finding her way to Michigan from Australia, winning U23s last summer, and more.

row2k - How did you get your start in rowing?

Zara Collisson - I began my journey in rowing as part of the high school program at Canberra Girls' Grammar School in Australia. Before discovering rowing, I was passionate about sport, including basketball, soccer, water polo, skiing, cross country, and track and field. In my third-to-last year of school, a boarding house roommate introduced me to rowing. What initially drew me in was the individual competitive aspect of the indoor rowing machines, the unique team dynamics, and the collective effort required to succeed.

There isn't any other sport I have played that demands such a balance of skill, cohesion, and grit from all team members. There are no star players in rowing, and its hard to tell if someone is pulling their heart out to get across the line or if someone is slacking off. It involves so much trust and belief in each other, and I love that.

row2k - How did you decide to attend Michigan?

Zara Collisson - Michigan initially appealed to me because of its past NCAA and Big Ten accomplishments, along with its world-class academic program. I knew that I wanted a balanced combination of academic and rowing excellence along with a positive team culture. When I visited Michigan I found all of that and more, immediately clicking with the team and feeling like I had known them for years. The team wasn't there to mess around; they wanted to win, and I wanted to be part of that process. That's when I knew I wanted to attend the University of Michigan (UMich) as part of the rowing team.

Furthermore, the opportunities and funding that go into sport at the University of Michigan is something that I had never seen before in Australia, the resources and facilities on offer are outdoing our national training centers back home. It is so amazing what they offer to athletes such as access to dietitians, academic advisors, tutors for every subject, victors4life program (free mini courses on finance, leadership, and networking opportunities), athletic trainers, and physiotherapists. I am beyond grateful to be able to attend such an amazing university.

Collisson (center) with AUS U23 W4+
Collisson (center) with AUS U23 W4+

row2k - You won the U23 W4+ this summer with Australia, what was that experience like?

Zara Collisson - Winning the U23 W4+ with Australia was an experience I needed to have. Representing my country for the first time and being rewarded with a gold medal was an incredible honor, especially alongside teammates Katie Easton (UMich), Sophie Houston, Emily Sheppard, Nick Dunlop and Coach Annabelle Eaton. After a challenging season marked by injury, this achievement has boosted my confidence in my rowing abilities.

I had made it on the team in 2022, all the way to the Australian European Training Centre in Varese, Italy but had to retire due to fractured ribs. Overcoming injury and battling back to top form made our 2023 victory even more rewarding. Fighting through an injury and being fast enough to make the team again, with my UMich teammate and good friend, Katie Easton will be be a memory I hold on to.

row2k - What is one key thing you learned racing this summer that will help you and your team the most this season and why?

Zara Collisson - The key lesson I took away from racing this summer was the powerful impact of confidence. Confidence became a pivotal factor in our boat's rhythm, influencing our performance positively. A significant influence on our confidence was preparation leading up to the race, and we made sure to prepare for that by striving to hit the gold medal standard every practice. I am very excited to bring confidence to UMich this season.

row2k - What has been your most memorable race, and why?

Zara Collisson - My most memorable race was my first-ever rowing race in the Div 5 quad at NSW Schoolgirl Head of the River. It was the first time I had ever experienced a coxswain yell at me for 1500m, and I loved every second of it. The unfamiliarity and intensity of the race were invigorating, and I vividly recall the simplicity of my novice mindset-pushing as hard as I could for my boat crew. This race holds a special place in my heart as it marked the beginning of my rowing journey, and my commitment to the sport.

row2k - What are you studying at Michigan, and do you have any plans after graduation?

Zara Collisson - Currently, I am studying sociology at the University of Michigan. My post-graduation plans involve pursuing a spot at the Australian National Training Centre for Rowing. The goal is to continue honing my skills and contribute to the sport at a national level.

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