RR: How did you get started rowing, and when did it really take hold as something you wanted to pursue at the college level?
WD: My rowing career started in high school, Kent. I started rowing my freshmen year, I was really scrawny and I didn’t even make the third boat, so I ended up rowing club, but still loved it. My junior year we went undefeated to win NEIRA’s and 4th at Cinci Juniors and to Henley, and I'm pretty sure that is when I knew this was something I wanted to continue doing into college.
RR: What was your experience as a lightweight among the heavies at BU? Did you find it helped you to push yourself further given the erg scores around you?
WD: Rowing as a lightweight in a heavyweight program really forced me to become as efficient and effective as possible otherwise I just wouldn’t have been able to compete at that level. The guys around me were pretty extraordinary there were a lot of foreigners from all over most of which had rowed for their respective Juniors teams and they really pushed me. These guys had massive erg scores and I really had to push to keep up with them, but my ergs didn’t really start dropping until after college.
RR: You played a major role in the development of the Riverside Boat Club Lightweight High Performance Group, which sent several men's LWT VIIIs to the World Championships. How did the experience of grass-roots club preparation for Worlds differ from your experience in preparation for the Olympic Games in 2008?
WD: It is a great experience rowing for an elite club program like Riverside, but when you are working full time also it really makes you think about whether or not this is something you want to do. Preparing to go to Worlds with Riverside versus preparation for the Olympics could not have been more different. With the club you are always trying to organize practice and raise money up to the last moment, there are a lot of external factors everybody is worrying about. Preparing for the Olympics was straight forward, rowing was our lives and so everything revolved around that we didn’t really have to worry about anything else, it allowed for more focus.
RR: You knew it was coming, so here it is: What was your experience of Beijing? How did you find being a member of the US Olympic team, and how has that changed your drive and determination to become one again for London?
WD: My experience in Beijing was very mixed, on the one hand it was absolutely amazing to be part of the US team and to represent our country in Beijing. On the other hand I still have a lot of disappointment about how we did, that has definitely helped focus my determination to become a better rower in every aspect. I know I have to become better technically, physically, and mentally. Someone mentioned the other day how excited they were that there are now less than 500 days until the London games, I hope that’s enough time for me to become the athlete I think I need to be to medal at the 2012 games.
RR: Racing at Beijing, it looked like your lineup had great base speed, but the first 500m was troublesome. Were there lineup changes being made or other factors that made smaller adjustments difficult?
WD: To be honest, that is one of my many frustrations, I don’t know why we couldn’t get off the line, we rowed the same lineup since selection had been made and we thought we had a good start going into it but we just couldn’t hang. I know the LM4- has already made some changes to account for this, we no longer do just a high twenty but rather our start lasts for 400m or more and this has really allowed us to be in the race going into the middle 1000.
RR: After the Games, did you take any time away from the sport?
WD: I didn’t do anything for about 3 months, I coached a little and worked out but I think I got out on the water about a dozen times. To be honest I was, like I think many Olympians are, a little depressed after the games. Not from our performance, but rather, everything in your life has revolved around this one event and all of a sudden its over and you don’t really know what to do with yourself.
RR: The recent move(s) of the US Men's National Team have profoundly affected both the heavyweights and lightweights this year. How has the adjustment process been, as you get established in Oklahoma City?
WD: I haven’t really had any problems with the move, while yes I am now living in Oklahoma somewhere I never imagined rowing would take me, things are good. We are training in a brand new state of the art facility with the best equipment and coaches and we don’t have to work around anyone else’s schedule. Plus I think having a strong lightweight group training together is a really good thing, all of us pushing each other. And yes it is very windy at times, but Eton is windy too, and when was the last time anyone went to an NSR and it wasn’t windy?
RR: What are the goals on the lightweight side for 2011, and have any lineups begun to form as of yet?
WD: Foremost in our minds is making sure we qualify the boat for the Olympics, beyond that I think making the A final this year would be a huge step, and obviously everyone wants to win a medal. I am sure some guys have already been working lineups out in their heads, but we have been spending most of our time in small boats. We also have a few young guys coming to join us later in the summer and I think they will be a strong addition to our group.
Thanks very much to Will for taking the time.
Upcoming interviews: Megan Kalmoe, UW All-American, 2008 Olympian 2012 Olympic hopeful. Also coming soon: RR Interviews Mark Hunter, Olympic Champion and reigning World Champion in the LM2x with Team GB.