Nine rowers punched their tickets to the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games as the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Team Trials for Rowing came to a close Sunday in Sarasota, Florida. The first seven rowers on the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team were determined, as well as the first two on the 2016 U.S. Paralympic Team. An additional two boats (three athletes) who won at the trials will travel to Lucerne, Switzerland, next month to qualify the quota spot for their boats at the Games.
First off the starting line was men’s arms and shoulders single sculls, where Blake Haxton earned his first Paralympic Games berth, defeating Robbie Blevins in a time of 4:57.56. Haxton will makes his third major international appearance after placing fourth and fifth at the last two world championships. A successful able-bodied rower in high school, he lost his legs to amputation after he suffering a flesh-eating bacteria infection. He will return home to Columbus, Ohio, to take his law school finals at Ohio State University before heading to Rio.
Next up was women’s arms and shoulders single sculls, where Jacqui Kapinowski won the Paralympic berth over KateLynne Steinke, finishing 15.61 seconds ahead with a time of 6:15.91. Kapinowski is headed to her second Paralympic Games, but will be making her first appearance in rowing. She competed in curling at the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games, where she placed fourth. She has rowed for the national team in 2011 and 2015 and has won world championship bronze medals in paratriathlon (2013) and marathon racing (2007, 2008).
The men’s single sculls competition saw two-time Olympian Ken Jurkowski earn the opportunity to qualify the boat for Rio. Winner of three consecutive Olympic Trials in single sculls, he crossed the line in in 7:20.31, 1.31 ahead of Thomas Graves. Jurkowski makes the U.S. national team for the eighth time. If he earns a top-three finish, he will have the chance to improve on his 24th-place finish in London after placing 11th in Beijing.
The women’s single sculls Olympic slot went to Gevvie Stone, who won the final in a time of 7:51.57, more than seven seconds ahead of Stesha Carle. The fourth-place finisher at last year’s world championships, the 2012 Olympian also picked up a silver and a bronze medal in world cup competition in 2015. She has won world titles at the under-23 level, including one in quadruple sculls in 2007 and one in the eight in 2006.
Willy Cowles and Stephen Whelpley both will earn their first trip to the Olympic Games if they qualify their boat in Lucerne. They won the double sculls Saturday morning in a time of 6:38.83, 17.58 seconds ahead of the field. Cowles was part of the eighth-place quadruple sculls boat at the third stop of the 2013 world cup circuit. He has earned silver medals domestically at the Head of the Charles (double sculls) in 2010 and single sculls at the elite nationals that same year. Whelpley makes his third U.S. national team and was part of the eighth-place quadruple sculls at the 2014 world championships. He also has a world cup bronze to his credit from the third stop of the 2014 series and was national single sculls champion in 2013.
Ellen Tomek and Meghan O’Leary punched their ticket to Rio with a win in women’s double sculls, covering the 2,000 meters in 7:09.11. Tomek returns to the Olympic Games after placing fifth in the double sculls in Beijing in 2008. She was won silver in the event at the second world cup of the season each of the past two years and was 11th in the event at the 2015 worlds after a sixth-place finish in 2014. She also earned gold in double sculls and silver in the quadruple sculls at the second world cup event in 2009. O’Leary was Tomek’s partner in the sixth-place boat at the 2014 worlds and the silver-medal finish at the second world cup race in 2014. She won gold in quad sculls and double sculls at the Royal Henley Regatta in 2011.
Andrew Campbell and Joshua Konieczny teamed up to claim their first Olympic beth in lightweight men's double sculls, winning their final with a time of 6:32.86. The duo finished eighth at last year’s worlds and had a fourth-place result at the second world cup event in 2015. Campbell, who placed 13th in single sculls at the 2014 worlds, earns selection to his 11th U.S. national team, the sixth on the senior crew. Konieczny makes his fourth national team, third as a senior. He won gold in the under-23 lightweight single sculls and senior lightweight four at the 2012 Royal Henley Regatta.
Kate Bertko and Devery Karz rounded out Sunday's Olympic qualifiers with their victory in the lightweight women's double sculls with a time of 7:18.50. Bertko has enjoyed success in the non-Olympic lightweight singles, winning the bronze medal at the past two world championships. Her time of 18:33.015 set a single sculls course record at the 2013 Head of the Charles Regatta. She also won the lightweight doubles silver medal at the 2013 worlds and quads silver in 2009. Making her first Olympic team, she makes the U.S. national team roster for the seventh time. Karz was in the bronze-medal boat at the third world cup stop in 2015 and placed 10th at the 2014 worlds. A native of Park City, Utah, she was part of the crew that took the silver medal at the 2009 U-23 lightweight quad sculls. She earns her first Olympic Games start and fifth U.S. national team selection.