LONDON — Facing windy conditions and the home crowd favorite crew from Great Britain, new assistant women’s crew coach Sarah Trowbridge and her partner Margot Shumway finished sixth for Team USA rowing in the double sculls on Friday.
Boats from Great Britain and Australia jumped to the early lead, finishing first and second, respectively. The Polish boat finished third. Team GB’s win in 6 minutes 55.82 seconds came as no surprise, as the pair has not lost since 2010 and set an Olympic best time in Monday’s heat to qualify for the final.
Throughout the 2000m race, Trowbridge and Shumway battled against the fourth place Chinese boat and the fifth place boat from New Zealand. The American pair finished in 7:10.54, about 2.5 seconds away from a bronze medal.
“I think we had nothing to lose in the race and I just wanted to walk away from this Olympic regatta knowing I had nothing left in the tank, nothing else to give,” Trowbridge said in a Friday USRowing press release. “Margot and I went out there looking for a fight, looking to push us way past any limit that we’ve ever had and so although that’s not the finish that we wanted I’m very proud of our race.”
Races at Eton Dorney were delayed on Friday morning and strong crosswinds lead officials to re-assign lanes in the medal events to give the teams with top qualifying times the best positions. Lane one with Team USA had the strongest crosswind, according to the announcers.
Trowbridge said the strong winds “wear you down” but emphasized they she and Shumway did not focus on the conditions.
“Honestly we didn’t let it get to us,” she said. “We just went really hard and from my understanding we were in the pack crossing the finish line and I think that’s really cool and that’s a step up and that’s a great thing for us.”
Trowbridge and Shumway were both cut from the Princeton, New Jersey national team training center in the past year and teamed up to train outside the system in the double scull, according to a July 24 press release from USRowing. They finished third at the US trials in Chula Vista, CA this spring — two spots away from representing the United States — and thought their Olympic dreams were over.
But when the top-two pairs from trials turned down the bids to train for spots in larger crews, Trowbridge and Shumway were given a chance and took first in the Lucerne, Switzerland qualification regatta this May to qualify for the Games.
“We came from outside the system, had a pretty lucky break after trials and we took it and made the most out of it,” Shumway said. “We really proved that we are a fast crew, that we have a lot of talent between us.”
They finished third in Monday’s heats and needed a top two finish in Tuesday’s repechage to have a chance at a medal. After a recalled start on Tuesday, the pair came from behind and moved into second in the last 500m to grab the last spot in the gold medal final.
“I love the way she races because she’s clearly a fighter,” head women’s crew coach Will Porter said after watching video of her repechage race from back in the States. “I know she will bring that spirit with her to Yale.”
Porter explained that the double scull is one of the most challenging rowing events because it is a very technical boat to row. The depth of the field makes for strong competition as many countries — including Poland and China — do not have enough rowers for Olympic-level eight boats, but can field strong doubles.
Trowbridge said she “won’t close the door on rowing or racing again,” but is excited to begin coaching and helping the Yale women’s crew program.
This was the first Olympics for Trowbridge, who graduated from the University of Michigan in 2006 and has been on five senior national teams.