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Men's Champ 8s: US Rowing All the Way

By Lauren Thomas
Posted on October 23, 2022
Men's Champ 8s: US Rowing All the Way

Mixed in with a pack of collegiate crews, the US Rowing team took on the Men’s Championship Eights race with just one day of practice, and no official coach. A late entry, the team led the entirety of the race, and finished in a course record-breaking time of 13:23.

“With only one practice in this lineup, it’s great to get the win, it’s even better to get the course record,” returning US Senior National Team member Ezra Carlson, who Saturday won the Champ Singles race, said. “I think we have a really good group of guys in general for the senior team right now. All the guys in this boat are awesome. I think we had just the best attitude we could have going into today. Just to go out and have fun, put down a good race, and see what we could do, and it turned out really, really well.”

Coming into the Charles, the eight were unphased by their collegiate opponents, and the fact they had never raced in this lineup before Friday’s practice day.

“The main strategy was just to find a good rhythm, and find each other,” Carlson said. “Most of these guys were together for the Canal Cup in Germany, the 12 and a half kilometer race a few weeks ago that we won against the Dutch, so we were kind of just trying to keep that train rolling and finish out the fall well.”

“As the US team, we hope we can beat the collegiate crews, but we knew Yale was going to be fast. The Yale stroke, Nick Rusher, was in [our] eight for World Championships, so we had some playful banter with him trying to chase them down and get as close to them as we could.”

Carlson capitalized on his experience rowing previously with the University of Washington this weekend, placing first in the Men’s Championship Singles, in addition to the gold in the Champ Eights. “It’s been a great Head of the Charles, and I’m stoked to be here for another year,” Carlson said.

Also a Charles River veteran, team USA’s coxswain, Jimmy Catalano completed his ninth Head of the Charles this year.

“I think we went out there and just executed a really well-done race,” Catalano said. “I did feel like, in my 10 years of coxing, that was the best I’ve ever done the course. It feels so good when you nail the turns and you know your boat fully trusts you. We had this conversation before the race started, they were like, ‘we don’t even need to look because we know you’re gonna nail it,’ and it felt so good.”

In the absence of a true coach, first year team member, Catalano felt the pressure to bring the team together and create a cohesive racing unit.

“With this boat coming together so last minute, we all kind of collectively came together and were like, ‘we need to feel like a unit and a group,’” Catalano said. “That’s really hard, because the first time we rowed this lineup was Friday, and we all know each other, but it’s hard to like, make [a team] in 24 hours. We spent a lot of time just going into this with really clear heads and just being like, ‘let’s try to become a unit as quick as possible so that we can just go out there and do what we need to do.’”

Finishing the race with a comfortable lead of ten seconds, the US Team beat out Syracuse, Yale, and Harvard, who placed second, third, and fourth consecutively. The collegiate teams left no more than two seconds of separation between each place.

“Our strategy for that race was the same strategy going into this,” Catalano said. “We were like, ‘we’re going to go out there, we’re going to be really aggressive, set the tone early and then just attack the whole thing.’ There should never be a point where you’re like, ‘oh, I need to save myself.’ It was just like, ‘let’s own the race from the first stroke and just go out there and do it.’”

Despite the incredible show made by the US Rowing team, all eyes were on bow 18, the Ukrainian team, sponsored by the Head of the Charles together with community and business groups that made their trip possible. The Ukrainians finished 12th in the men’s race, 35 seconds behind the winning boat.

The crowd was electric as the Ukrainian boat passed by, every spectator feeling the gravity of the moment, including the crews on the water.

“At Worlds, at Canal Cup, and now here, we’ve kind of gotten to know them a little bit and there’s some good camaraderie,” Carlson said of the Ukrainian team. “It’s awesome to see them over here and see them racing, and all those dudes are really nice. It’s incredibly impressive that they can stay focused and race like they do, even when everything that they have going on back home is going on. I can’t imagine what they’re going through with their families and even their teammates that they row with back home, and dealing with what’s going on in Ukraine.”

Forging friendships while dealing with language barriers, turns out not to be much of a hindrance for the US and Ukraine rowers.

“We don’t even really speak a lot of the same language, but you can just tell in their faces and in their body language that it’s just such a mutual respect for one another,” Catalano said. “Really perspective is the biggest thing I think when I think of the Ukrainian team. We’re so fortunate that we get to come down every day and train together and be a unit, and I think sometimes we take that for granted.”

(Photo by Ben Crawley)



By Lauren Thomas
Posted on October 23, 2022