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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
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)
click for full size image!

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)
click for full size image!

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!


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