It has been over a year since I last posted on the night of the 2016 Summer Olympics Opening Ceremonies. A lot–a whole lot–has happened since then.
The abbreviated version: We finished 6th in the world in Rio after beating out two-time World Champions and Olympic gold medal favorites, New Zealand by 0.05 seconds in the semifinal to make it into the A Final (that is the medal round for all of my non-rowing peeps). It was an incredible race and outside of winning a medal, encapsulated every part of what you’d like your Olympics experience to be. Despite that heroic semifinal performance, we went on to have a terrible race in very rough conditions in the final, finishing a disappointing last place. After our racing wrapped up and we sulked for a day or two, we stayed in Rio and soaked it all in. We were nonstop for 12 days exploring the city, hanging out at the USA House, and attending as many of the other events that we could. My favorite? Badminton. Yes, you read that correctly. I cried at the Closing Ceremonies. It was unforgettable.
The next 12 months were filled with ups, downs, roundabouts, and a few pitfalls. There were times Ellen and I weren’t sure we would find ourselves here in Sarasota. There were times I never thought I would race again. We spent much of the year out of the double, Ellen sidelined due to injury. I raced the single internationally, a first in my career, placing a respectable 8th at World Cup 2 in Poland. Ellen came back in late June just in time for us to get a few rows in the double before heading to Lucerne, Switzerland for World Cup 3. With moderate expectations, we would make it into the A Final and despite not breaking into the medals, happy to know we still had solid speed and fully aware that we had a lot of work to do. A few weeks later, we went on to handedly win the USRowing National Team Trials in August to be officially named to the 2017 United States World Championship Team.
And here we are. It is the night before our first race of the 2017 World Rowing Championships in Sarasota. With Worlds hosted this year in hot and humid Florida, the eight-day event is scheduled much later than usual, at the end of September to (try to) avoid the summer heat, versus being typically held in mid to late August. I think the heat index here was around 100 degrees Fahrenheit today.
It has been 23 years since the United States last hosted the World Rowing Championships (1994) at Eagle Creek Park in Indianapolis, Indiana. That year, (now) Assistant National Team Coach Laurel Korholz was a member of the women’s eight coxed by this year’s USRowing Woman of the Year (Ernestine Bayer Award) and University of Washington National Champion head coach, Yasmin Farooq. The boat took silver behind Germany and ahead of Romania. The lightweight women’s four was an event and the U.S. crew of Christine Collins, Danika Holbrook-Harris, Charlotte Hollings, and Linda Muri won the gold medal. The men’s four with coxswain was also an event; Bill Cooper, Adam Holland, Edward Murphy, Chris Swan, and Pete Cipollone would take silver. The U.S. placed 4th overall in the medals table with 6 medals (2 gold, 3 silver, 1 bronze). The other medals would come from the women’s four (silver), lightweight women’s double (bronze), and men’s eight (gold). That’s four medals for the women and two by the men; but who’s counting. It would be a great performance if the Team could bring in six medals this year.
Tomorrow, Ellen Tomek and I go to the line for the fifth straight year together as the United States Women’s Double. Looking back over our career, we’ve pulled in a handful of World Cup medals but never won; we’ve consistently found ourselves in the A Final of World Championships and the Rio Olympics, but just couldn’t put up the performance we were capable of to get onto the podium. All of the previews and projections don’t even mention us as medal contenders this year. I’ve always loved being the underdog.
This year feels special. Perhaps it’s because we have beaten some pretty incredible odds to make it here. Maybe it’s because we have the rare opportunity to represent our country here at home, in front of so many friends, family, fans, and young rowers who aspire to one day race for Team USA. Be it a combination of all of those things or just the taper setting in, but we are feeling ready to race and to race well.
And it’s about damn time.
Go USA. Every Day Counts.