BY ED MORAN
PHOTO BY ED MORAN
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With the opening of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics now just about five months away, the first official event for athletes hoping to earn a chance to row for the US will begin Tuesday at the Olympic Training Center of Chula Vista, California.
Twenty-three men’s and women’s pairs – 13 women, and 10 men – will race for direct invitations to the sweep boat camps with top-four finishes. Also racing for women’s quad selection camp invitations are eight women’s doubles. The top two finishing crews in that event will be invited to the women’s sculling selection camp.
Of extra importance, the winning women’s pair will also earn the right to compete at a World Rowing Cup event and win a berth to the Tokyo squad with a top performance. If the winner of the selection event does not wish to compete to race in the women’s pair at an upcoming World Rowing Championship, that crew will be selected at trials. The women’s pair is one of six women’s boat classes that was qualified for the Olympic schedule at the 2019 World Rowing Championship in Linz, Austria.
In addition to the pairs racing, the five-day event will also feature NSR racing in the women’s double, and speed order racing in six para-rowing events, including the men’s and women’s PR2 singles, the men’s and women’s PR3 pairs, and the PR2 mixed double, which is the only Paralympic event being run.
The women’s double has no direct impact on which crew will represent the US in Tokyo and will not include the crew of Gevvie Stone and Cicely Madden, that finished fifth at the 2019 World Rowing Championships and qualified the boat class for Tokyo. Both Stone and Madden are training in Austin, Texas this winter and are expected to begin their Olympic season competing in the women’s single at the first Olympic Trails next month.
Among the eight crews scheduled to race in that event are 2016 Olympians Ellen Tomek and Meghan O’Leary, who last rowed on the US team at the 2018 World Rowing Championships, where they finished third.
Of the 10 men’s pair racing, all 20 athletes are part of the US men’s Oakland, Calif. training center. Only one women’s crew does not consist of US women’s training center athletes. That crew is the Green Racing Project and New York AC composite crew of Heidi Robbins and Kelsey Reelick. Robbins stroked the 2015 World Rowing Championship women’s eight.
“The event falls in line with what we typically do in the selection process,” said US high performance director, Matt Imes. “It’s a National Selection Regatta where we are running three events, men’s pair, women’s pair, women’s double. From a selection standpoint, the biggest thing coming out of it are automatic invites to selection camps.
“And on the women’s side, the winning women’s pair is on the pathway to have the opportunity to go to World Cups with them to earn a spot on the Olympic Team.”
Racing begins Tuesday with time trials for the Olympic class crews. Semifinals are scheduled for Thursday, with finals in all events scheduled for Friday.