The last time U.S. rowers competed in the Pan American Games, it was part of one of the most nail-biting final days. Holding off a late charge by Canada, the Americans won the men’s eight by 1.69 seconds.
This year should be just as exciting for the U.S., but women’s double and quadruple sculler Lindsay Meyer won’t mind if it’s a close finish or a wider margin of victory.
“As an athlete, I think the most memorable victories are the ones that are nail-biting,” Meyer said. “But I think we’ll be happy with either.”
The U.S. crew will look to match or exceed its 2011 medal total of eight when it competes on Martindale Pond at the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto. The pond has hosted the Royal Canadian Henley since 1903, and also hosted the 1970 and 1999 World Rowing Championships.
The venue will provide an appropriate level of prestige for the men’s eight, which looks to defend its title.
Men’s single sculler Yohann Rigogne finished 25th at those championships. This year, he won the 2015 National Selection Regatta 1 and then won the single at the Pan American Trials.
“It feels really good to be part of a team that is really successful,” he said. “Most of us, now, train together for the same race and it will make us faster.”
Overall, 26 rowers will race in 14 events: men’s and women’s single sculls, lightweight women’s single sculls, men’s and women’s double sculls, lightweight men’s and women’s double sculls, men’s and women’s pair, men’s and women’s quadruple sculls, men’s four, lightweight men’s four and men’s eight.
Of the 26 rowers competing, 14 are senior national team members. There’s Olympic experience on the team, as Robin Prendes (LM4-) competed in the 2012 Games and Meyer and Sam Stitt (M2x and M4x) participated in the 2008 Games.
“There’s definitely some new talent that’s been rising up, but there’s also quite a bit of previous national team experience for the group,” Meyer said. “It’s a pretty even mix of people with experience and newcomers.”
Most of those newcomers are athletes that compete with the Philadelphia-based Vesper Boat Club, which won five of the eleven Pan American Trials events on Mercer Lake in West Windsor, N.J.
The club has a rich history of international success. Though they haven’t achieved as much success in recent years, winning the trials was important.
“For us to win those trials, that was really huge,” said John Parker, high performance director for Vesper Boat Club, which has athletes in eight of the 14 events. “We have a lot of older guys who were part of success in the past who are really reinvigorated by it. It was really fun. It was a huge step.”
The Olympic selection regattas will occur next spring, which means the Pan American Games will be valuable in preparation for next year’s Games.
“This will give us a good measure of where we are,” Parker said. “By winning the trials and competing in those races, this gives us a good idea of how it will look next year.
“It’s just great to have this opportunity to test ourselves against some of the best in the world.”
Stuart Jackson is a student at Indiana University.