Team USA has arrived in Europe to finalize our preparations for the 2015 World Rowing Championships. This year, we are starting the trip with a short camp in Erba, Italy before we pack up and move over to Aiguebelette next week. The trip has gone smoothly so far, we love Erba and everything about it, and we are getting ourselves adjusted so we can be ready to go when racing starts in France in the final days of August. The routine is sleep, eat, row, hydrate, repeat. Easy.
If only making the 2015 W4X had been so simple.
When the team returned from World Cup II, we spent two weeks up in Hanover, New Hampshire to rebuild our training mileage and prepare for final selection in the team boats for the 2015 World Championships. I wrote my last entry during that trip, and was not sure at that point where I might end up in the mix. As it turned out, following the conclusion of the Dartmouth camp, there were only a few starboard seats in the 8+ left to be selected, and most of the seats in the 4X were still undecided. I had an open dialogue with my coaches over the course of a few weeks to try to figure out where I would fit best, and in the end we decided that would be in the 4X group.
If you’d like to annoy me for the rest of the year, please ask me why I didn’t demand to be in the 8+. With the way that results unfolded at World Cup II in the pairs, some people would probably assume that I would feel entitled to a seat in that boat and anything else would be a slight. And I think from the outside, maybe it would be easy to look in and assume that. But, that’s not the way things work on our Team – and definitely not how they work for me. There were a lot of things to consider in making the decision to take a run at the 4X, and it wasn’t easy for my coaches or for me to weigh all of the factors against one another–but now that it’s done and I’m on board I have no regrets and am only looking forward.
The one thing that people are going to be talking about above all else at this year’s World Championships: Olympic Qualification. I have raced the 4X to a Qualification position before, in 2011. The pressure to qualify your event is one that no athlete is going to take lightly this season in any event because it is a pressure that comes from a sense of responsibility that supersedes your own personal wants and needs as an athlete: it is a responsibility you bear for your entire team. Qualifying an event this year may not guarantee an American athlete a seat in that boat in 2016, but it guarantees that some American athletes will have the opportunity to compete in Rio. To be trusted with that responsibility is an honor and a privilege. It’s also something that we can’t afford to fuck up. What’s different between my experience in 2011 and now in 2015 is: two boats. The number of Qualification slots for W4Xs in Aiguebelette has been reduced from seven (in 2011) to five in 2015. Making the A Final this year isn’t going to be good enough – we have to place in the top five to ensure that the United States will send a W4X to the 2016 Olympic Games.
I was not the biggest, strongest, most technical athlete or fastest erg included in selection for this year’s World Championship team. But I do have more experience in this boat class than any other athlete in the American squad. 2015 will be my fifth season in the 4X, and I am hoping that that experience will help my crew to achieve our goals at this year’s Worlds. It’s not a guarantee that we will be successful, and we are going to have to work for anything we get. But I am going to do everything I can with what I have to help us get there.
My own selection aside, we have had a few bumps along the way in this year’s W4X. My longtime friend and compatriot in the 4X, Adrienne Martelli, was selected to the stroke seat on the final day of seat racing in July. Only a few days later, when we had had only a handful of rows together as a crew, Adrienne learned she had broken a rib. We have since called up a replacement athlete, Liv Coffey, who rowed in last year’s bronze medal 4X but was originally selected to this year’s 4-, to fill Adrienne’s seat. We’ve done some seat-shuffling, and I even got a try at steering with the toe from bow seat — but have now finally arrived at what, I think, will be our final configuration for racing in Aiguebelette (with the toe back in stroke):
The [rest of the] boat is young, but strong, and smart. The work that we’ve been doing has been building just a little bit, every day, from the day before, and we have set very high expectations for ourselves. As always, we have the best training partners in the world in our W8+ and W4- crews–who we are sparring with regularly–and we love to race. We have a huge task ahead of us over the next few weeks to make sure that we are supporting our teammates and doing our job to get our event qualified. But I trust with the work we have all put in together over the past three years that the potential is there for us to get what we want from our upcoming races in Aiguebelette. I’m not only on board this year’s W4X, but I’m also calling all the shots from bow seat (aka “The Control Tower”). There’s no better place to be. Let’s roll.
Long Live the Dream,