After rower Katelin Snyder crossed the finish line as her women’s eight crew won the gold medal at the world championships, the fact that they secured Team USA an unprecedented 10th consecutive world title in the event or the fact that they qualified the boat for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games were not top of mind for Snyder.
In an interview with USRowing, the 5-foot-4 coxswain could think only about how proud she was of her teammates in other boats who also put out strong performances at the 2015 World Rowing Championships, which wrapped up Sunday in Aiguebelette, France.
“For us, this race is all about our team,” Snyder said. “The quad performed, the four performed, the pair performed, and they inspire us every day and I think we all went out there to build off what they’d already done in this regatta.”
The women’s eight gold medal was the last in a string of impressive races by the entire U.S. women’s delegation. Also on Sunday, women’s single sculler Gevvie Stone finished fourth in her first world championship A final, while a day earlier, the women’s quadruple sculls took gold for Team USA’s first ever world title in that event and the women’s pair won bronze. The non-Olympic women’s four also struck gold at worlds.
All six Olympic-event women’s crews qualified the U.S. for Rio berths with their performances in France, while four of the eight men’s boats will have to compete at next year’s final qualification regatta to earn their spots.
It was the women’s eight, however, that continued to shine the brightest. The U.S. crew of Snyder, Heidi Robbins, Tessa Gobbo, Kerry Simmonds, Emily Regan, Lauren Schmetterling, Amanda Polk, Meghan Musnicki and Vicky Opitz finished in 6:05.650, nearly three seconds ahead of New Zealand’s time of 6:08.520. Canada earned bronze in 6:09.050.
“They raced so well,” said women’s head coach Tom Terhaar. “They raced incredibly well. It couldn’t have been better. It was fantastic. When you show up here, qualification is number one and that’s all you’re really thinking about. But to have them raise up the level and race so well is fantastic.”
The win was the sixth consecutive world title for Musnicki, who was five world championship wins and a 2012 Olympic gold to her name. Polk also has five world titles, but did not make the 2012 Olympic team. Snyder has coxed four of the world champion boats (2009; 2013-15) and all members of the team now have at least two world titles in the eight, except Gobbo, who previously won gold in the four in 2013 and silver in the four in 2014.
Seven of the nine crew members were on the team that set the current world record of 5:54.16 at a world cup in 2013.
Team USA became the first country to win 10 consecutive world or Olympic titles in the women’s eight, a dominance that truly dates back to women’s rowing’s Olympic debut in 1976.
“This is a product of Carol Brown and Anita DeFrantz and Joan Van Blom and everybody that came before us that made it possible for us to be here today,” Snyder said.
Van Blom (née Lind) became the first U.S. woman to medal at the Olympics when she won silver in the single sculls in ’76. Also that year, Brown and DeFrantz won bronze in the eight.
The U.S. won its first Olympic gold in the eight on home waters at the Los Angeles 1984 Olympics, but would then go medal-less in the event until winning silver in the 2004 Games.
In Rio, Team USA will look to win its third consecutive Olympic gold medal in the eight, a feat only Romania has accomplished (1996-2004).