The road to Rio 2016 got a little brighter for West Coast University’s sponsored rowing team after taking gold in two races at a recent international event.
WCU rowers Sara Hendershot and Sarah Zelenka won both the senior women’s pair and the championship women’s pair at the 133rd annual Royal Canadian Henley Regatta in early August. The duo had gone to Ontario, Canada to test themselves against strong competition in several different racing scenarios. They ended up beating pairs training at the Canadian National Team level by nine seconds and shaving eight seconds off their personal goal of 7 minutes, 15 seconds in the 2,000-meter race.
“When we crossed the finish line and saw 7:07, I was pleasantly surprised,” Hendershot said in a phone interview from Boston. “That was pretty exciting.
“Our coach was very happy with our time and believes we are in a very good place right now. We are right on track to be very competitive in March 2016 at the National Selection Regatta.”
Hendershot, 27, and Zelenka, 28, were previously on the USRowing national team as the women’s pair and narrowly missed medaling at the 2012 London Olympics. After the Games, Zelenka joined the University of Louisville’s coaching staff while Hendershot continued to train and experiment with ways to be faster for 2016. Two months ago the former Olympians, who had remained close friends, reunited in the boat and quickly got their old groove back.
“It took us a couple of weeks to settle in, and all of a sudden it’s been taking off,” Hendershot said. “We were good in London, but we want to be even better.”
“This is a David-and-Goliath story as they attempt to circumvent the Olympic status quo process by showing up and simply beating the best,” WCU Executive Chairman of the Board David Pyle said. “Sara and Sarah strive to get ahead of the curve rowing for West Coast University in their quest for Olympic gold.”
Hendershot said she and Zelenka were both extremely grateful for West Coast University’s sponsorship but even more thankful for the faith in their efforts.
“That’s something that I felt at the last Olympics when I was sitting at the starting line,” Hendershot said. “I remember feeling, ‘Wow, I have so many people back home and even in the stands here that are cheering for me and want me to do really well’ and I feel that same way right now. I feel like I have such support from West Coast University — that they are really there to back us — and it just is motivating.”
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