Q&A with Susanne Grainger
Virginia rowing junior Susanne Grainger (London, Ontario) recently sat down with VirginiaSports.com to talk about coming from Canada to Virginia, the difference between racing the fours and the eights and more.
How has the recent nice weather affected practice?
Grainger: I think that this nice weather is a reward for the snow we had over spring break. We handled the snow really well. The warm weather has definitely been a factor in wanting to get out on the water, and it’s so nice to row in the sun.
How do you feel after the first races of the season?
Grainger: I think it’s always sort of an eye opener because it gives you an idea of what you can do. In practice, we do a lot of training to be able to race really well, but going out in an actual racing situation gives you an idea of how you’re truly going to react and approach it. It gives you a chance to experience it and know what you have to work on in those situations.
After being in the fours most of your career here, you have been in the eights this year, what’s the biggest difference between the two kinds of boats?
Grainger: The pieces go by a lot faster (laughs). I think getting everybody on the same page is a bit different in eights, not necessarily easier, just different. Working on rhythm and getting bodies moving together is just as tricky in the four, but with the eights, the number of people can come into play. There’s so many of you to get on the same page so it’s teamwork really.
Do you prefer the fours or the eights over the other?
Grainger: I think I used to really prefer eights, but now that I’ve experienced them both, I enjoy both of them for different reasons. Before I experienced fours, I would have said eights were my absolute favorite, but with fours, if you really get them going, they can just fly. I would say I probably still lean to eights but not as much as I did before.
How did you get into rowing?
Grainger: My family had just moved back up to Canada when I was going into grade eight and we were having dinner with some old family friends. The father of the girl I knew was actually the coach for the high school rowing team and he looked at me and said, “You’re really tall, you should come try rowing.” I went out, having no idea what rowing was, but he showed me the boathouse and taught me how to erg and it clicked from there.
How did you end up at UVa?
Grainger: I contacted (coach) Kevin (Sauer). I didn’t really know UVa existed and didn’t really know about the American college sports system, which is quite massive now that I’ve experienced it. I looked at a bunch of schools that I had done research on and really liked what Kevin had to tell me about the program. I visited the university and loved the atmosphere that Virginia had and it matched what I wanted academically.
What are you studying and where do you see yourself after earning your degree?
Grainger: I am double majoring in studio art with a concentration in photography and politics with a concentration in government and political theory. Academically, I’ll probably lean towards law. Maybe go to grad school for political theory and then on to law school, but I’ll always keep art as an option or opportunity for hobbies.
What is your favorite class?
Grainger: I’m really enjoying a class I’m currently taking called epistemology, which is the study of knowledge and it completely blows my mind. For every question someone could ask, there’s an answer and a theory for it and there’s no end to what you can discuss. It’s really an interesting class.
Being a musician when you were younger, are you still involved in music here at Virginia?
Grainger: I played clarinet in the high school band, played piano, sang for the jazz band and sang in competitions like the Kiwanis Festival of music. I had to do it with band, but I also competed on my own for singing. You have to sing competing pieces of work to show a variety of what you can do. When I came to UVa, I sort of put it on the side a little bit, because rowing meant more to me, but I have a keyboard at home and my roommate has a guitar, which I’m trying to learn. From time to time, it’s still nice to go back to it and have a nice release of energy playing piano and singing.
What is your favorite part of UVa?
Grainger: I think it’s the people that I’ve met. Everyone here is so much fun and we are all so supportive of each other. The rowing team has really become my family away from home. I’ve met people here that share the same interests as me and know I will be friends with for a long time.
What is the biggest difference between London, Ontario and Charlottesville?
Grainger: Weather is the obvious, but my home town in Ontario is bigger than Charlottesville. In Ontario, I love being with my family but the city feels so much more spread out; the sense of community is slightly different. At UVa, the community feels so tightly knit. They are both great cities and I love being able to experience the differences between the two.