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Rowers step up to the international level

By Raj Sagar, Athletics Media Relations

While Virginia’s rowing program has built its reputation as one of the nation’s best, it is now starting to impact the sport on an international level.

Headlined by Lindsay Shoop, a Charlottesville native and former Virginia All-America rower who won a gold medal in the women’s eight while rowing for the United States at the World Rowing Championships in Munich, Germany, the Virginia rowing program has been well represented overseas. Shoop’s victory qualified the United States in that event for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China.

Shoop also earned a gold medal and helped establish a world record with the United States’ eight at the 2006 World Championships. She graduated from The Covenant School in Charlottesville and earned her undergraduate degree from UVa in 2003.

“Standing on the podium getting congratulated by so many Olympic champions from other countries was a tremendous honor,” Shoop said. “Those women were the ones I remember seeing when I first watched tapes of previous Olympic Games, thinking how amazing they are and what they have done for this sport. It was inexplicable to stand next to them, let alone be congratulated by them.”

Shoop’s story is even more impressive considering she did not take up the sport until midway through her college experience.

“Lindsay Shoop came out for rowing in January of her junior year at UVa,” Virginia rowing coach Kevin Sauer said. “She was average that spring, but worked incredibly hard over the summer and made herself into an all All-American her senior year and graduate year. She has continued to work hard in the national team system and has had incredible success.”

Melanie Kok, also a former Virginia All-America rower, earned a bronze medal in the light single while rowing for Canada in the 2007 World Championships. Kok won a gold medal in the light quad while rowing for Canada in the 2005 World Championships. She graduated from UVa last spring.

Their success outside the program speaks volumes about rowing at University of Virginia.

“It is a great honor to have Virginia student-athletes compete internationally,” Sauer said. “I think people outside the program recognize what these kids do on a daily basis that allows them to compete at the next level.”

Any time you step up to the next level of competition, the amount of preparation and dedication increases drastically.

“We all do everything we possibly can to stay healthy and uninjured, as well as get mentally and physically stronger, faster and more emotionally equipped to handle anything that is thrown at us,” Shoop said. “Rowing internationally makes you very personally responsible, and you mature very quickly. There are no breaks anymore, and if you let up for even a second, someone steps in and beats you.”

Two other former Virginia All-America rowers enjoyed success rowing for the United States at the 2007 Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Margaret Matia won a gold medal in the double and earned a silver medal in the quad, and Jennifer Reck earned a bronze medal in the pair competition. Matia graduated from UVa in 2005 and Reck in 2004.

Current Virginia rowers also competed internationally this summer. Sophomores Emelia Colman-Shepherd (Burnaby, British Columbia) and Lauren Hutchins (North Vancouver) were members of the Canadian eight that finished fourth at the Under-23 World Championships in Strathclyde, Scotland. Sophomore Jennifer Cromwell (Bellevue, Wash.) finished sixth in the pair for the United States at the Under-23 World Championships.

Freshmen Lauren Shook (Grosse Pointe Park, Mich.) and Claudia Blandford (Winnipeg, Manitoba) competed in the 2007 Junior World Championships in Beijing, China, on the 2008 Olympics course. Shook earned a bronze medal in the eight for the United States’ team, while Blandford won the D final in the double for Canada.

“Lauren Shook improved immensely during the summer before her senior year in high school and during that senior year,” Sauer said. “She saw what was possible and worked to make her way into the eight that went to the world championships.”

Very few athletes, in any sport, have the opportunity to compete internationally and represent their country.

“Before this summer I had never had the feeling of representing something so much bigger than I was,” Shook said. “I had been used to representing a high school in Michigan, and being able to say I represent the United States of America was something I will never forget. I have never felt such pride for my country either, I always felt so proud to walk around in my USA gear. I cannot say enough about my experiences over the summer.”

Whether they are still currently rowing at Virginia or have moved on, the athletes understand how much their experience rowing for Virginia prepared them for international competition.

“The biggest thing I took from rowing at Virginia is the concept of team,” Shoop said. “Teamwork is something we emphasize a great deal here and it has helped me immensely at the next level.”

These select few, through dedication, hard work, and learning from each other have given themselves the opportunity to compete at a higher level, and have had great success.

“They never give up,” Sauer said. “They keep working hard until they achieve what goals they have for themselves. They also are good team playersthey make those around them better.”

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