Rowing to Rio: Sacrifices of an Olympic Dream

Rowing requires year-round training with morning and evening sessions, which means no big vacations.

Even through an El Nino winter, most days look like a postcard in the middle of Chula Vista’s Otay Lake.

What looks like leisure to some, is actually just another grueling training session for others.

Rowers from across the U.S. aren’t here for a leisurely ride. They’re working hard to earn a seat on American boats for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Among them, 25-year-old Tyler Nase, a Philadelphia-area native who moved west to Chula Vista’s Olympic Training Center to try and make Team USA.

“We really want to fine tune our skills, that way when we’re in competition, we don’t really have to worry about those things. It’s just sort of second nature” said Nase.

Nase competes in the Men’s Lightweight 4 Event, which unlike traditional rowing, requires athletes to weigh in before competition. The rowers need to average out to 70 kilograms, or right around 153 pounds.

This added requirement is no small foot note, defining the kinds of athletes who can compete in the event since the biggest and strongest men need not apply. Traditional rowers who stand like chiseled statues at 6-foot, 6-inches and 220 pounds of muscle will tip the scales.

Nase and his teammates normally weigh north of 165 pounds, but drop weight like wrestlers in the days before competitions.

“During competition, like the day of the race, I’ll sweat down 2 pounds and after we weigh in, I’ll get to hydrate again to get ready for the next race” said Nase.

This added weight component makes eating a real focus. Lightweight rowers must sacrifice pleasure foods more often than other athletes.

“I’m passing up pizza, not really digging into lasagna, stuff like that” said Nase who knows a thing or two about sacrifice.

The Princeton graduate put his career on hold to pursue his Olympic dream. Rowing requires year-round training with morning and evening sessions, which means no big vacations.

He’ll row 15 miles in the morning, hit the weight room after lunch, and then row an 80-minute afternoon session.

While Nase’s buddies let loose on Friday night, he is often asleep by 9 p.m. needing the rest and recovery.
In some ways, lightweight rowers like Nase embody the true “Olympic Dream.” Since they’re all right around the same size, genetics play a smaller role in success. Natural gifts take a back seat to who wants it the most.

“I found out in high school, it really didn’t matter, there were no naturals, it was just whoever worked hard, stayed consistent, stuff like that” said Nase.

Ironic how an event defined by hard work looks so effortless in motion.

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