The Post-Olympic Year

30.12.2013 BY: National Rowing Foundation

The NRF’s Shields Fellows Will Daly and Taylor Ritzel shed light on the trials and tribulations of the post-Olympic year. We hope that everyone has a healthy and happy 2014 and that Team USA continues to break new barriers.

Taylor’s 2013:

Well, 2013 has been quite a year. I can tell you that at this time last year there’s no way I could have ever predicted my 2013. After the 2012 London Olympics I spent some time at home and then ventured to NYC to work for six months. I loved working and I loved being in the city, however trying to work full-time, train twice a day and commute from Connecticut proved to be pretty exhausting. I don’t know how real people do it!

I decided pretty early on that I wanted to continue training and attempt to make the 2016 Olympic Team, so I returned to full-time training with the women’s team in late February. A small group of us got to train at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs for a week, which was so cool. I grew up less than an hour away and had visited the site many times on field trips as a kid. A group of us then traveled to Australia for the first World Cup, which was a really fun experience. Not only was I pretty out of shape, so racing feeling so unprepared was quite interesting, but we also had the opportunity to be tourists and see Sydney and a wildlife park. I returned to the group in April to try and get fit and ended up fracturing yet another rib within just a month. Pretty frustrating!

The injury left me feeling angry and upset because I had dealt with injury a lot during the Olympic year and was not mentally prepared to go through that process again so quickly upon my return to the team. So, I decided to remove myself from the group and selection and attempted to figure out why I couldn’t keep my ribs healthy. I spent time in Annapolis and Boston training on my own and making sure I healed properly. I absolutely loved training in Boston and am so thankful to all the people that made my time there so wonderful.

While I definitely had to think long and hard about what I wanted out of the sport and whether or not I should continue to train, I truly missed racing and testing myself, so I decided to join the group again at the start of this fall. I’ve really enjoyed training with this new group and while it’s a very different dynamic and there are many women that I miss being around the boathouse, this group of women are extremely tough and strong to say the least. It’s been strange transitioning from a young gun (I was the youngest in the 2012 8+) to one of the veterans. I just hope that I can inspire this group the way that the older women did for me. Here’s to a healthy and fast 2014 and as always thank you to the NRF and its supporters for all they do to make our dreams come true.


Will’s 2013:

As I write this there are 952 days until the start of the 2016 Rio Olympics and there are 8 months until the 2014 World Championships in Amsterdam.  If everything goes well there are 959 days left in my rowing career; everyday counts.

Choosing to continue training after not qualifying the lightweight double for the 2012 London Olympics was a big decision.  I had given up a great deal to try and make it to that point and not making it made me wonder if it was all worth it.  At the same time I felt like I still had something to prove, not just to those around me, but also to myself.  I knew I could get better, faster, and stronger I just needed to keep working to get there.

Training in the post-Olympic year is an interesting experience; it starts off very slow (at least in my experience), with training sessions slowly gaining length and intensity.  I trained through the fall and into the spring, but it wasn’t until almost the summer that I actually felt like I was in shape.

By that point it was a whirlwind of activity.  We had NSRs and from that our boat (the LM4-) seemed to come together naturally.  A few weeks later we were in Lucern racing in World Cup III.  I had more confidence going into this World Cup than I ever have before, but even so I didn’t know what that meant.  As soon as we didn’t qualify right to the semi’s from the heat and had to go through the reps I was nervous.  I didn’t think I could handle going another four years having mediocre performances.

We made it to the semi and all of a sudden we did something I have never experienced before rowing the LM4-, we legitimately had a shot at the A Final, getting squeezed out by the Brits by .14 seconds (it’s a number I am not soon to forget).  But we were there, right there, we had a massive sprint to put us in contention with the best in the World.

With this renewed motivation and confidence my boat mates (Robin Prendes, Anthony Fahden, and Bob Duff), our coach (Cam Kiosoglous) and I went to work.  We were totally isolated, on our own, both physically and mentally.  We did the work and came out of the World Championships in fifth place, the best the US has done in the LM4- event in 13 years.

This result has done two things; one told me that my decision to keep rowing was the right one.  Secondly, it motivated me to work even harder, harder then I ever have before in my 7 years on the senior team.  The training this fall has been going frighteningly well for me, I say frighteningly because I know how hard it is to stay on the razor’s edge.

People have asked me what the biggest difference is for me right now, why am I having a great fall.  I don’t know exactly, what I do know is that Cam has done a fantastic job managing our training.  But more than that I am having fun, a lot of fun.  I am enjoying rowing and training maybe more than I ever have before.

I am sure some of the reason for this is that I know in the back of my mind, if everything works out my rowing career will be over in 959 days and I am trying to make the most of each day.  I don’t have to kill myself everyday, but I have to enjoy every day.  I am privileged to be able to do something I love at such a high level and I want to be able to look back on my last few years of rowing and know that not only did I work my hardest to become the best athlete that my genes would allow, but I also had a great time doing it.

952 days till Rio Olympic Games 2016, trying to make everyday count, I know the competition is.