Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Chungju WRCs: On to the Final!


WHEW!

200m to go...finished just over a second behind Poland (L), and just over half a second ahead of New Zealand (top). Finding bend and love, L to R: me, Susan, Kara, and Megan. PS...Sue and I are pulling even harder with Team Byron wristbands! And PPS...Radcliffe: yes, that's the Mary McCagg we're racing in! So awesome! Photo Credit: Igor Meijer.

We had many improvements in our repechage ("second-chance race") yesterday and did what we needed to do--net a top-2 finish to advance to the medal-level A final Saturday. It was not an easy, graceful, or pretty race, but we were able to establish a strong and effective rhythm for a good chunk of the race, as well as find another gear at the end to respond to a kitchen-sink sprint from New Zealand.

We now have a couple of days to recover, but more importantly, to keep progressing as we have over the last few weeks since being named as a crew--to keep getting a little bit better every day. There were many things we could see, watching video, that we will be trying to improve on technically for our final. But the most important thing--the will to win and the belief that we, as a crew, CAN win--are there, and we are much stronger going to the line knowing that.

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Your USA W4x...excited to get out there Saturday and give 'em hell! Photo credit: Kara Kohler

Today was awesome as we had our first USA medal--our LTAMix2x, Paul Hurley and Natalie McCarthy, took bronze. LTAMix2x stands for Legs/Trunk/Arms Mixed Double, meaning that these athletes have at least partial use of all limbs and may have other para-abilities, such as blindness, etc. We also had two close 4th-place finishes, in the LTAMix4+ and TAMix2x. It is awesome to have every possible boat class that's training towards the 2016 Paralympics represented on our team here as well as every Olympic and non-Olympic boat class. Paul and Natalie: thanks for inspiring everyone heading into finals here in Chungju! #OneTeam #OneGoal

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Natalie and Paul, USA's first medalists, bronze in LTAMix2x! Photo Credit: Allison Frederick.

Pulling hard for Team USA and Team Byron--every stroke, every day. Thanks for your support and Go USA!
-Esther

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Annyeonghaseyo (안녕하세요) from Chungju, South Korea!


Housemate Emily Huelskamp (W4-) and I ready for our big trip...our first glimpse of South Korea from the air...and our first taste of Korean pop culture, a welcome from a K-Pop boy band!

(That's "Hello!") Team USA arrived in Chungju Thursday and are now fully in the swing of things here in South Korea. After a long (just shy of 14 hours!) but stress-free flight, as well as customs and a two-hour bus ride, we were thankful to simply arrive in one piece. However, our arrival was made very special by the welcoming committee, who brought out their best hospitality, even at 9:00pm!

Team USA with our awesome hotel staff as we arrive!

Posing for a photo with our cheerful regatta volunteers. They told us that instead of "Cheese!", we are supposed to say "Kimchi!"

Many of the regatta staff we interact with daily are volunteers--mostly college students (including college rowers) who are donating their time and English skills to helping us figure things out that might have been lost in translation. Since a few things are a little different--that's really awesome, and we owe you big time!

Regatta mascots...the "fire escape" outside our hotel room, aka a chest strap/pulley to rappel down the building...and a gentle reminder not to lean against the elevator door.

It's hot and humid here, but after a summer in NJ (and before that, for me, in DC), Team USA is doing just fine. Turns out the best training trip to acclimate was training at home!

With Susan and Kara on the Chungju Dam, 322 ft. up!  Photo: Kara Kohler.

The hotel where we're staying--a bank training center campus near a large hydroelectric dam--is awesome, with everything from a giant indoor gym to rooms with balconies overlooking the mountains to a dining hall with great food. On our first morning, we took a run around the neighborhood, including to the dam, which has speakers playing Elvis...in Korean. We also have been enjoying finding some of the more exotic wildlife around the campus and at the course.

Cool bugs spotted at the hotel and course. All larger than they appear! Photo (Japanese Rhinoceros Beetle): Ross James.

The main regatta building at the Chungju course. Really beautiful venue!

Our Para-Rowing team will be arriving tomorrow, which will make our squad complete and ready to take on the world. I think this my first World Championships where Team USA actually has the largest team here, and it's an incredible one to be a part of. Click the photo below to check out more photos and videos from the trip in my Facebook album. Thanks for supporting our journey and Go USA!

Team USA representing #TeamByron as we headed out from Princeton. Go USA!!!

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