Largest Boathouse Row contingent in three decades to hit elite competitions

Hadas Kuznits
August 08, 2019 - 1:55 pm
Greg Ansolabehere, far left, is one of 11 elite rowers heading to the World Rowing Championships, Aug. 25 through Sept. 1, in Austria.

Hadas Kuznits/KYW Newsradio

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Eleven elite athletes from Philadelphia are heading to the World Rowing Championships this month to try qualifying for the 2020 Olympics.

Nine additional local rowers are competing in the Pan American Games underway right now through Aug. 10 in Peru.

It's the largest delegation of rowers in over three decades affiliated with Boathouse Row clubs participating in international elite competitions. 

Bonnie Mueller, vice commodore of the Schyulkill Navy, says that's something to celebrate.

"We've always routinely sent athletes to the World Championships, as well as competitions like the Pan American Games. This year we're so excited to have 20 different athletes affiliated with our clubs competing in both of those competitions."

Sean Hall, high-performance head coach at Penn Athletic Club, explains: If those World Rowing Championships athletes place high enough, they could earn a spot at next year's Olympics.

"The year prior to the Olympics is a qualification year where, depending on how you finish, you gain berth” — or the right to row at the Olympics the following year — "so there's just that added pressure of doing better," Hall said.

Among the 11 headed to the World Rowing Championships, Aug. 25 through Sept. 1, in Austria is senior rowing competitor Greg Ansolabehere. 

"If the men's quadruple skull places Top 8, then we automatically get a place in the Olympics," he said.

It means the U.S. team would be guaranteed a boat in the race. There would be a separate competition to determine the athletes in the boat. The U.S. Olympic team may or may not be the same athletes who competed in the World Championships.

Mueller says that's exciting, because these athletes are highly involved in community outreach.

"There are going to be children in our Philadelphia area (watching the World Championships or perhaps the Olympics) who are going to be able to turn to their mom and dad and say, 'I know him!' or 'I know her!'" she said.