Wednesday, September 26, 2012

2012 Olympic Gold Medalist Esther Lofgren on the 'Backwards' Experience

After taking gold in London, Esther Lofgren and her teammates from the U.S. women's squad have been on a whirlwind tour, most recently attending the Philadelphia premiere of the new feature film, Backwards, written, produced, and directed by Sarah Megan Thomas (who also plays one of the lead roles). Here, Esther shares a little about her experience of the premiere, which included a meeting with Thomas, as well as her thoughts on the film. Read on!
Thursday night, I headed to the Philadelphia Art Museum – as famous for the "Rocky" steps out front as the amazing collection inside – for the red carpet premiere of Backwards. Joining me were teammates Sara Hendershot, from the Olympic pair, and Adrienne Martelli and Megan Kalmoe, Olympic bronze medallists in the quad. We decided to have fun with our first red carpet, and borrowed designer dresses for the occasion. I even managed to find one that was floor-length while wearing four-inch heels 
We arrived on the red carpet and met Sarah Megan Thomas, the writer, director and producer of the film. She's lovely, quick to smile and incredibly driven – all great qualities for a rower! After a few photos, we headed inside to watch the film. 
My expectations for rowing movies aren't particularly high. The Boy in Blue? Oxford Blues? The first scene in The Skulls? And who can forget Rowing Through
But "Backwards" was, in fact, one of the best sports movies I've seen. It certainly captures a modern team boat rower's experience extremely well. And it captures the competitive drive of rowers – that urge to thrash ourselves, to sacrifice everything for the shot at a seat in the boat, to approach everything as something to be won – so well that it pulled at my heart. I'm not a particularly sentimental person, so that's saying something. 
Having lived this life for several years now, I also thought that Thomas portrayed those around the rowers well, too – the very supportive parents who want their child to be happy, even if nearly all of what they see is a poor, exhausted athlete who is too immersed in an obscure sport to care much about the real world. Or the ex-boyfriend that you had to break things off with because of rowing (and the one who dumped you because you cared more about rowing than you did about him.) Or the coach who uses whatever tools necessary to get the desired results. And Backwards also paints the main character's relationships with these figures very well. 
As my boatmate Susan Francia put it, the great thing about Backwards is that the things that are a little off – the things that make you shake your head as a rower – were all little things. No, our team doesn't all put our hands in for a group cheer just after getting reamed out after a bad erg test. But Backwards captures that horrible glance down the row of ergs as you finish your test, looking for the girl you know you have to beat, and seeing that she's already done and staring at you. And it tells the joy of victory, the beauty of flat, calm water through a rower's eyes, and the appreciation for the journey of a rowing career, not just the final race. 
So, both wearing my rowing hat and without it, I highly encourage you to go see Backwards. And bring your teammates, because they'll like it too (and so that you're not the only one in the theater eating puppy chow with your long legs sticking out in the aisle). 
-Esther Lofgren
Thanks very much to Esther for her take on the film – now I guess it's high time that we go track down a ticket ourselves! Read all about Esther's journey to London 2012 on her blog, the aptly named 'Harder. Better. Faster. Stronger.'


Monday, September 24, 2012

Video Of The Week: Training for London with the Dutch Men's Eight

This week's video features more slow-motion rowing with Olympians, again with a solid soundtrack, produced by the Dutch men's eight as they trained for London 2012. The video shows the crew from multiple angles throughout each part of the stroke (with views showing both the bodies and the bladework), making it a very useful coaching tool, as well as another example of fine technical rowing from an Olympic-caliber crew. In keeping with our last few videos, it was shot in Varese, Italy – certainly the place to be outside of Eton Dorney in 2012! Also, recently spotted back on Oakland Estuary was Dutch seven seat (and former Cal Bear) Olivier Siegelaar (pictured here along with another former Bear, Spencer Crowley), who has been training at CRC.

Want to suggest the next 'Video Of The Week?' Shoot us an email at rowingrelated [at] gmail [dot] com, send us your suggestion via Twitter (, or get in touch via our Facebook page.


Friday, September 21, 2012

Athlete Spotlight: Alexandra Tsiavou of Greece is on top of her game

The above race video shows Alexandra Tsiavou (stroke) and her partner in the lightweight women's double, Christina Giazitzidou (bow), making yet another podium appearance in the 2012 season – this time racing to a silver medal at the European Championships in Varese, Italy. The combination has been the most successful women's lightweight crew over the past several seasons, consistently placing among the medals, but no individual lightweight athlete has been as successful as Alexandra Tsiavou (our RoRy winner for Female Athlete at the Elite Level in 2011). In fact, to find the last time that Tsiavou entered an international race without coming away with a medal, you have to go back to the final of the lightweight women's double in Beijing, when Tsiavou (just 23 years of age at the time) and then partner Chrisi Biskitzi placed sixth overall.

Since then, Tsiavou has been on an absolute tear. After winning the world championship title for the second time in three years in the lightweight women's double in Bled last year, Tsiavou had another incredible season in 2012. Tsiavou and Giazitzidou took gold at the first world cup, bronze in Lucerne, and bronze at the Olympic Games, before Tsiavou entered the lightweight single at senior worlds in Plovdiv. And guess what? She won.

For more, check out FISA's latest video interview with Alexandra Tsiavou, shot prior to the Lucerne World Rowing Cup this year, as well as a written interview with Tsiavou from the 2010 season.


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Op-Ed: Does USRowing Need a(nother?) High Performance Director?

London was a wild ride. Now what? (Photo: © B. Kitch)
In the wake of the 2012 Olympic Games, USRowing announced some changes to the coaching staff and structure of the national team. While it has not yet been publicly acknowledged, the first of the major moves was USRowing's split with men's head coach Tim McLaren, following the bronze medal performance of the men's four in London (this much is clear from what claims to be a letter from Glenn Merry to the athletes, posted to the Rowing Illustrated boards). The next move was the hiring of former Princeton University head coach Curtis Jordan as the new USRowing High Performance Director. Finally, USRowing officially announced that Tom Terhaar would be returning to the U.S. team for the next quadrennium earlier this week. What does all this mean?

First, while McLaren did well to medal in what was an extremely competitive event at Eton Dorney, clearly, there were larger issues at play given the performance of the U.S. men's team over the past four years. The total medal tally from 2009-2012 was three – a gold medal in the coxed pair in Poznan in 2009 (Troy Kepper and Henrik Rummel – there's that man again), a silver in the lightweight men's eight also in Poznan (though that crew was coached by John Parker), and a bronze in the men's four London. In the midst of the quadrennium, McLaren decided to make some fundamental changes to the structure of the men's squad, moving the training center away from Princeton and spreading it between Oklahoma City and San Diego. While this initially weakened the team, the addition of a third training center and coach in Mike Teti at CRC gave USRowing the strongest hand it could have hoped for in London. Though McLaren was the head coach, it was largely in title only, as he worked with a small number of athletes in one of three training centers, with Teti and Bryan Volpenhein at the helm in Oakland and OKC, respectively. And, the results were solid. The men were 0.3 seconds away from two medals – a feat that they hadn't accomplished since 1996.

How'd they do it? The re-involvement of Mike Teti made it possible for McLaren to focus primarily on one boat – the four. Coaching a single crew to outstanding results has always been McLaren's strong suit, though, from what I am told, he makes an effort to coach everyone equally. All the more reason, then, for McLaren to handle a smaller group, allowing him to work more intensely with the individuals and produce a podium finish. However, this is not the job description of the head coach. Teti is ultra-familiar with U.S. collegiate rowing, and has always been able to take a large group of athletes and select a crew that is competitive from that athlete pool. Has he been exactly right every time? No. No one has. But his crews have consistently excelled on the world stage, at both the under-23 and elite levels. Not only is Teti a good coach of an individual crew, he is also an excellent team manager. And, he shares all of these qualities with USRowing women's head coach, Tom Terhaar.

Terhaar will be back, and USRowing is suitably glad of it. The U.S. women's team has had unprecedented success under Terhaar, and there is no reason to expect otherwise over the next quadrennium. Terhaar brings together all of the necessary qualities to run a successful program, and has done well to communicate and integrate with the under-23 and junior national team programs so that athletes and coaches are on the same page as athletes develop and mature into senior level racers.

The announcement that Curtis Jordan would become the USRowing High Performance Director, then, must apply to the men's side. What can Jordan do to improve the U.S. women's team, which is already the most successful rowing team in the world, other than simply provide necessary support to Terhaar and his crews? The real job for Jordan, it seems, is to find an equivalent of Terhaar for the U.S. men's team. While Teti will likely be willing to help whenever needed, he is unlikely to leave his position at Cal to return to the U.S. team full time. Still, whether or not Jordan can recruit and install a men's head coach in the style of Terhaar will determine whether or not USRowing's decision to hire a High Performance Director was a mistake. There are only so many six-figure salaries to go around, and so far, USRowing has hired Jordan, an experienced and successful coach at both the collegiate and international levels, to do no coaching. Let's hope that Jordan is every bit the recruiter that he is a coach, so that the U.S. men can continue to build for Rio. Because, the fact is, if there were an equivalent to Terhaar on the men's side, Jordan's new position would likely never have been created.

This, then, begs the question, 'Who is out there?' There are certainly a number of talented candidates – I'm sure we all have our short lists. However, I can't help asking myself a follow-up question – 'Why didn't USRowing simply hire Curtis Jordan as the new men's coach?' Perhaps it's not a role he wanted, but one could easily make an argument for Jordan as a strong candidate for head coach on the men's side. As it stands, the U.S. men are leaderless – if not Jordan, then who? Further, is Jordan going to hire a series of individual boat coaches on the men's side, while leaving the women's side the same? Would the system function given such incongruity? If it works one way on the women's side, why can't it work the same way for the men?

Afternoon update: A reader pointed this out after we published the above article, but USRowing has yet to address Matt Imes' continuing role as High Performance Director. Will he continue? If so, what would be the reason for keeping two HPDs onboard at the same time? Why does USRowing continue to create six-figure salaried positions for administrators rather than coaches? 

There are so many questions. Let's just hope we don't spend the rest of the next quadrennium looking for answers. 


Monday, September 17, 2012

Video Of The Week: Rowing New Zealand Trains for London 2012

The above training video (which includes a solid, bass-heavy dubstep soundtrack sure to be popular with the UW Huskies), we get a slow-motion glimpse of a number of Olympic medalists training on the water, via stern-mounted GoPro cameras. Among those featured are Nathan Cohen and Joseph Sullivan of the men's double, and Rebecca Scown and Juliette Haigh of the women's pair. Like the video of the Australian women's eight that we posted on Friday, this gives athletes and coaches alike a good reference point for technique as the 2012-2013 season begins.

To view the epic final of the men's double, which saw the Kiwi men come back from fourth place entering the final 500m to take their third consecutive gold at the world level (and, perhaps even more importantly, earned them our coveted RoRy for Race of the Year at the Elite Level), check out the video below:

(Check out the above links, and you'll find that's four videos in one VOTW post!) Want to suggest the next 'Video Of The Week?' Shoot us an email at rowingrelated [at] gmail [dot] com, send us your suggestion via Twitter (, or get in touch via our Facebook page.


Friday, September 14, 2012

Technical Rowing: Australian Women's Eight on Lake Varese

The above video, posted to Nick Garratt's YouTube Channel, is a fine example of precision and patience on the recovery, and a solid role model for fall training. It's that time of year again, when we lay the foundations both technically and physiologically for the new season, and while the bladework may not be 100% perfect, the bodies are moving very well together and the run is not diminished by the slide. Also, the drill–a double pause–is being performed without the coxswain making any calls, forcing the rowers to be fully switched-on and focused on the movements of their teammates. "Hearing the boat sing," as Göran Buckhorn might say.

While this video was shot prior to the 2012 Olympics, it's also a glimpse of Varese, Italy, where the European Rowing Championships are currently in full swing. For more on the Euro Champs, check out the newly added News column on the right side of the page, which features our top picks for current articles and results. It's all part of our continuing efforts to streamline our site and make RR a better and more useful resource for you, the rower/reader.


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Tiger Training: Princeton Takes on the Spartan Race to Kick Off 2012-2013 Season

The Princeton Tigers got the 2012-2013 season started with a bang at the Spartan Race, battling through a brutal race course and adverse weather conditions–and having a great time doing it. The above video is the latest in a great series on the Princeton Crew YouTube Channel. The Tiger heavyweight squad headed to Vernon, New Jersey for the Tri-State Super Spartan, and, minutes after the race began, a thunderstorm rolled in and shut down the festivities...or did it? To quote the video, "'Quit' is not in the Princeton Crew lexicon."

Well done Tigers, and good luck in the upcoming season! Things are just getting underway in much of the rowing world, and we're looking forward to another solid year of training, racing and analysis here at RowingRelated.

See you there,


Monday, September 10, 2012

Video Of The Week: The Olympic Gold Medal Winning South African Lightweight Men's Four

This week's video comes to us from the South African Olympic squad's Matthew Brittain, and follows the RSA LM4- during training prior to their gold medal performance at Eton Dorney. The video includes work at steady state as well as race pace footage, where it's easy to see why this was a crew to be reckoned with in London. Given their outstanding result on Dorney Lake, we gave them our coveted RoRy for Breakthrough Performance of the Year at the Elite Level, and look forward to seeing South African rowing continue to rise to new heights in the wake of this inspirational achievement.

You can watch the final of the lightweight men's four on the official YouTube Channel of the Olympics:

(Skip to 9:00 for the beginning of the LM4- race, following the finals of the men's double.)

Want to suggest the next 'Video Of The Week?' Shoot us an email at rowingrelated [at] gmail [dot] com, send us your suggestion via Twitter (, or get in touch via our Facebook page.


Friday, September 7, 2012

The 2012 RoRys, Part III: The Elite Level

Today marks the final day of the 2012 RoRys, and the time to celebrate the best performances and most outstanding athletes on the international rowing circuit in an Olympic year. It was a fantastic Olympic Rowing Regatta–indeed, given the amount of history that was made and records that were broken, it may have been the best one to date. And so, without further ado, we present to you the 2012 RoRy winners at the elite level:

RoRy for 'Programme' of the Year
Great Britain, Jurgen Grobler, David Tanner
Last year's winners, and deserving winners in 2012, the home team at the London Olympics performed better than any GB Olympic Rowing Team in history, collecting nine medals in total, four of them gold. With the likes of Heather Stanning and Helen Glover in the women's pair, Katherine Grainger and Anna Watkins in the double, an excellent lightweight program (indeed, all GB lightweight boats scored silver or better at Eton Dorney), and a heavyweight showdown in the men's four that was one for the ages, GB Rowing certainly earned its place atop the podium for program of the year in London.

RoRy for Efficiency
New Zealand, Dick Tonks 
The Kiwi rowing team absolutely dominated the small boats, winning gold in the men's single, men's double, and men's pair, with bronze in the women's pair and men's lightweight double, a fourth place finish in the women's single, and fifth in the women's double. What does all this mean? Of the 11 crews that New Zealand brought to the Olympic Games, five of them medaled, and two of them set new Olympic best times (one of which was also a world best time).

RoRy for Coach of the Year
Deutscher Ruderverband, Hartmut Buschbacher 
While the focus internationally was on the undefeated German men's eight, the German rowing federation also won the men's quad–this may be the first time that one country has won both of the 'big' boats at a single Olympic Rowing Regatta. Guiding a crew from an undefeated world championship circuit to an Olympic victory is no small feat–not only did the Deutschlandachter accomplish this, they did it in rough conditions, and against what was the tightest field ever in a men's eight final at the Olympic Games, with all six crews separated by just 3.12 seconds as they crossed the line (at the Games in Los Angeles in 1932, a four boat final had a spread of 3.2 seconds on the course in Long Beach). Germany also took silver in the women's quad.

RoRy for Race of the Year
The men's double final at Eton Dorney
There are so many good ones that choosing a single race seems almost impossible, but, in the end, there can be only one. New Zealand's Nathan Cohen and Joseph Sullivan had already set a new Olympic best time earlier in the week, but in the final, they were in sixth place through the 500m mark. However, this seems to where they are most comfortable. By the 1000m mark, the Kiwi duo had moved into fifth, but they were still only in fourth place crossing 1500 meters–surely, they had left it too late. Or not. They unleashed what was the most intense, world-beating sprint in three years of come-from-behind victories at the elite level, and rowed down the Argentines, Slovenians, and Italians en route to gold.

Breakthrough Performance of the Year
The South African Lightweight Men's Four
The final of the lightweight men's four at the Olympics was, as you might imagine, a star-studded event, with the home team looking very strong throughout, and perennial gold medal contender Eskild Ebbesen in the stroke seat of yet another potent Danish combination, not to mention the 2011 world champions from Australia. The RSA crew, however, bided their time, and moved at exactly the right moment, as the Danes began to fade from their early position at the top of the field. Great Britain did all they could to take home the gold for the home crowd, but in the end, it was Lawrence Ndlovu, John Smith, Matthew Brittain, and James Thompson of South Africa who edged into the lead, winning the first-ever gold medal for South African rowing at the Olympic Games.

RoRys for Athletes of the Year
Female Athlete of the Year: Kim Crow, Australia
Kim Crow was, quite possibly, the best athlete on the water at Eton Dorney. Period. She was the only athlete to double up, racing in both the women's single and women's double, having qualified the women's single at the Final Olympic Qualification Regatta in Lucerne. And, not only did she take a silver in the women's double, she took home a second medal–this time bronze–in the women's single, finishing ahead of four time Olympic medalist (and double Olympic champion) Ekaterina Karsten of Belarus. A phenomenal performance from a phenomenal athlete.

Male Athlete of the Year: Mahé Drysdale, New Zealand
Yes, we know we're picking two single scullers, but the fact is, when you race to a bronze in Beijing despite illness, and then get hit by a car just weeks before the Olympic final in London, and still win gold this time, well, you deserve it. Drysdale was five times world champion before winning his first Olympic gold, and this year he faced one of his toughest challenges yet, as he was unable to row following the cycling accident (which took place in Munich prior to the World Cup there), and instead trained in other ways to keep fit (indeed, Mahé spends a great deal of time cycling as cross-training for rowing, and was on a training ride when the accident occurred). In the final, however, he left no doubt, leading throughout the final 1500 meters and building his advantage through the line.

Congratulations to all the 2012 RoRy winners on a fantastic year, and we, as fans and supporters of rowing, thank you for all that you do! We're looking forward to seeing much more from all of you in the future!


Thursday, September 6, 2012

The 2012 RoRys, Part II: Intercollegiate Rowing

Day two of the 2012 RoRys celebrates the best of the best in collegiate rowing, and this year we've divided the awards into two separate categories, for varsity and club teams. There were a number of phenomenal races and outstanding performances during the intercollegiate racing season this year, so picking out only a few is quite a challenge! However, we must be selective, and so, here are the 2012 RoRy winners at the collegiate level:

RoRys for Varsity Programs of the Year
The University of Washington Men
Yes, we picked Harvard to win the IRA this year, but maybe that's just the kind of motivation that the Huskies needed to take a second-consecutive title, along with an unprecedented sixth straight Ten Eyck trophy this year. Not only did the Huskies have dominant speed from top to bottom (setting a new course record in the frosh eight event), their performance in the varsity eight was nothing short of amazing, crushing the final in a time of 5:21.482–just over two seconds shy of the world best time in the men's eight set by Canada this year in Lucerne. Mike Callahan and Luke McGee have a great thing going, and will look to defend their title in the 2012-2013 season, with Olympic silver medalist Conlin McCabe reentering the fold at the Conibear Shellhouse.

The University of Virginia Women
Our pick to win it all from January onward, the Cavaliers didn't disappoint, and showed impressive top end speed at the NCAA Championships on Mercer Lake. Led by former GB senior national team rower Sarah Cowburn, the Cavs had a fantastic campaign, and made the varsity eight final considerably less interesting this year than last, winning by roughly a length over the field. The dynamic duo of Kevin Sauer and Steve Pritzker has since broken up, with Pritzker taking on the head coaching role at Iowa, but the Virginia women, too, will likely be back in the mix in the coming season.

RoRy for Club Program of the Year
Grand Valley State University
Under the watchful eye and guidance of head coach John Bancheri, GVSU had an excellent season this year, on both the men's and women's sides. The Laker men's varsity eight, featuring novice rower Nate Biolchini (17th at C.R.A.S.H.-B.s this year with a 6:06.3), got the season started right with a great win at the San Diego Crew Classic in the Cal Cup in April, and backed that up with a defeat of Michigan at the Lubbers Cup Regatta, while Bancheri's women's program won an ACRA title in the varsity eight on Lake Lanier, GA.

RoRys for Varsity Coaches of the Year
Men - Paul Cooke, Brown University
The Brown Bears had a fantastic season, bouncing back from and early season defeat at the hands of Washington, and rowing down the previously undefeated Harvard varsity eight to take home the Eastern Sprints title in dramatic fashion (for more, see the video posted below). They then backed this up with a strong silver medal performance at IRAs, and again at Henley Royal Regatta, where they stepped up to the Grand Challenge Cup with alum Jamie Koven's blessing, and proceeded to make the final, where they battled well against a very strong California Rowing Club crew featuring several senior national team veterans.

Women - Al Acosta, Stanford University (Lightweights)
Maybe next year the Cardinal will get a No. 1 seed entering the IRA, but, then again, playing underdog hasn't stopped them yet. Al Acosta quietly guided his Stanford Cardinal to their third straight IRA title this year in the varsity eight, and added a silver medal in the lightweight four for good measure. Congrats to the Stanford Lightweight squad on another successful campaign, and hats off to Acosta for his consistency and execution!

Club Coach of the Year
Frank Biller, The University of Virginia
Despite losing several of his most talented and influential rowers for the 2011-2012 season, Biller's UVa Cavs made it back-to-back ACRA national titles in the men's varsity eight, this time winning a nine-boat grand final on Lake Lanier, and breaking the course record in the process (NB: Lake Lanier hosted the 1996 Olympic Games). Also, Biller guided UVa rower Jonathan Furlong to a U23 Trials win in the lightweight men's single. Biller's training program and team structure have combined to build what is now a legitimate powerhouse in men's club rowing.

Race of the Year
Brown defeats Harvard to win men's varsity eight title at Eastern Sprints
This was a hum-dinger, as we Yanks say. The race came down to the sprint, and just when it looked like Harvard's long, loping rhythm might just give them enough of an extra gear nearing the finish, Brown cranked up the rate still further and refused to be denied. No further explanation necessary–just take a look at the video below:

RoRy for Breakthrough Performance of the Year
Humboldt State wins NCAA DII Title 
The Humboldt State Jacks entered the 2012 NCAA Championships as underdogs, but they had already defeated the vaunted Western Washington Vikings once during the championship season, taking the varsity eight title at the Northwest Conference Rowing Championships. After suffering a setback at the hands of WWU at WIRAs, the Jacks looked poised and ready at NCAAs, and when the moment was right, they made their move in the grand final, winning the varsity eight and ending a seven-year streak for Western Washington, having already won the fours title earlier in the day. The victory capped off Jacks' head coach Robin Meiggs 18th season at the helm.

RoRys Athletes of the Year
Rob Munn, The University of Washington 
Munn was a team captain and true leader with the Washington Huskies this year, and was among the top performers on the erg on what was an outstanding team. He rowed on the varsity eight that captured the IRA title and set a new course record, and then raced to a gold medal in the men's eight at U23 worlds in Lithuania in July. An outstanding athlete, plain and simple–just looking at his 6k from Fall West Coast Speed Order 2011 (18:58.5, which placed him ahead of 2012 Olympians Henrik Rummel, Giuseppe Lanzone, Jake Cornelius, Charlie Cole, and Scott Gault) is enough to tell you that Munn was among the top athletes in the U.S. not only at the collegiate, but also the elite level this year.

Felice Mueller, The University of Michigan
Named Michigan's 2011-2012 Athlete of the Year, Mueller became the first rower in school history to win the award. Having started her international rowing career with the junior national team in 2007, Mueller went on to win back-to-back U23 titles in the women's pair, and set a new world best time with partner Grace Luczak on the Bosbaan in 2011 (when she also took bronze in the BW8+). This season, Mueller rowed on the second place Michigan varsity eight at the NCAA Championships.

Congrats to all the winners! More to come tomorrow, with our final round of 2012 RoRys on the way–who will take home the prestigious RoRys for Athletes of the Year at the Elite Level? Stay tuned.


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The 2012 RoRys, Part I: The Junior Level

Today marks the first of three straight days celebrating the top performances and most influential people in rowing this year, at the junior, collegiate and elite levels. It was an outstanding year for our sport, with the Olympics and Paralympics crowning a season of racing 2012 jam-packed with amazing stories and close finishes. And so, without further ado, here are the 2012 RoRys for the Junior Level!

RoRys for Programs of the Year
Marin Men
The Marin Rowing Association junior men are now back-to-back RoRy winners in the Program of the Year category, after another undefeated season in the varsity eight, and two more national titles in the varsity and lightweight eights in Oak Ridge. Men's head coach Graham Willoughby has set up a system that continues to deliver, and the 2011-2012 season certainly backed up a breakthrough campaign the year before.

Oakland Strokes Women
Under the guidance of head coach Derek Byrnes, the Oakland Strokes women's squad absolutely put on a clinic at youth nationals, walking away to convincing victories in both the varsity and lightweight eights, paralleling Marin on the men's side. Despite having a late season setback in the varsity eight at the Southwest junior regional championships (where last year's national champions, Marin, came from behind to win a surprise victory over Oakland), the Strokes bounced back and claimed the national title in Tennessee.

RoRys for Coaches of the Year
Men - Graham Willoughby, Marin
What can we say? He did it again. This marks Willoughby's second straight RoRy for Coach of the Year–trust me, we tried to give it to someone else, but the strength of the Marin men this year, as well as a solid fifth-place finish for Willoughby's charges in the junior men's eight at worlds this summer forced our hand. Congrats to the Marin program for becoming the most decorated club in our first two rounds of RoRys!

Women - Günter Beutter, GMS
Without a doubt, Beutter has had a huge impact on every aspect of the program at GMS, from recruiting through training and racing, and the results show that he's on top of his game. GMS boasted some of the strongest sculling results at junior nationals this year, with senior phenom Rosie Grinalds leading the charge. Beutter's strong season continued at junior worlds, where his women's quad became the first U.S. crew to medal in that event, taking silver.

RoRy for Race of the Year
Junior Women's Pair, 2012 World Rowing Senior and Junior Championships
Without question, this was a game effort, and marked another first medal for the U.S. junior women in that event. Kadie Brown and Christine Cavallo got out of the blocks very well, and held on to a narrow advantage over the surging Italians through 1500m. While the final 500m of the race didn't play out as planned, the U.S. crew put themselves in a position to win, gave it everything they had, and found themselves on the podium as a result.

Breakthrough Performance of the Year
Elizabeth Sharis, Y Quad Cities
While success is nothing new to young Elizabeth Sharis, this year she showcased a new level of speed, though still only 15 years of age. Sharis took silver in the women's single behind rival sculler Rosie Grinalds of GMS–two months later, however, the two would team up to form half of the U.S. junior women's quad (along with W1x bronze medalist from youth nationals, Cicely Madden, and Alex Zadravec) at worlds, taking another, perhaps more prestigious silver medal in Bulgaria. We'll be looking for big things from Sharis over the next few years.

Athletes of the Year
Male Athlete of the Year: Rich Caputo of Deerfield Academy
Standing at 6'5" and weighing in at 185 lbs, Caputo has a ton of athletic potential, and he's already starting to make good on it. Caputo took first place at the 2012 youth national championships in Oak Ridge, and went on to make the JM8+ at worlds this year, which placed fifth overall. Like Elizabeth Sharis, he also comes from rowing stock, as his father, Rich, rowed for Brown University.

Female Athlete of the Year: Ruth Narode of Rose City Rowing Club
Ruth Narode got her 2012 season started with a bang, qualifying for a free trip to C.R.A.S.H.-B.s in Boston, and nearly holding off Janina Scholz of Germany for first place in the Junior Heavyweight Women's event–Scholz claimed the top of the podium in 6:54.6, with Narode crossing in an impressive 6:55.4. While her club did not attend the 2012 youth nationals, Narode was invited to selection camp, where she earned a seat in the priority boat–the junior women's coxless four. In Bulgaria, Narode and crew took a strong silver medal behind China.

Honorable mention for Female Athlete of the Year must go to Rosie Grinalds of GMS, who had an amazing season, winning two USRowing youth national titles in the same morning (the women's single and quad), and taking silver at worlds in the JW4x.

Congrats to all our RoRy winners at the junior level! Coming up tomorrow are the RoRys for the collegiate level, to be followed by our top picks in the elite ranks on Friday.


Monday, September 3, 2012

Video Of The Week: More Kiwi Comedy

If you haven't yet seen this one, you'll be glad we made it our Video Of The Week! Some great work from Kiwi comedians Jono and Ben, following the outstanding performance of Rowing New Zealand at the Olympic Games in London. "How many dudes you know row like this? How many dudes got a 'mo' like this?" Evidently Eric Murray (he of the 'mo') saw the video, and even quoted some of the lyrics when he visited the Jono and Ben at Ten. While selecting the winners of the prestigious RoRys is never an easy task, this year may prove even more difficult than the last given the fantastic racing all summer at the junior, collegiate and elite levels!

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