Katelin Guregian

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Katelin Guregian’s last call in rowing — help the U.S. women’s eight regain its crown

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Katelin Guregian jokes that she had 20 different addresses in the last eight years as the coxswain of the decorated U.S. women’s eight. That’s not that uncommon in rowing, where the best of the best often live with host families near the national team center in Princeton, N.J.

Guregian, who in the last Olympic cycle guided the American program to a third straight gold medal and sixth, seventh and eighth straight world titles, will move again after this summer.

She has lived apart from her husband, fellow Rio Olympic rower Nareg Guregian, for two and a half years. Nareg now works for Visa, based in California. She turns 33 a week after the Olympics and wants to start a family.

“Absolutely it’s my last Olympics,” Guregian said in November, adding that she wants to make Tokyo her last regatta of any kind. “Rowing, you have to give everything in order to be successful. For me, it’s not sustainable to keep giving everything for another quad. Even this quad, there have been some times where I’ve been like, oh man, not this again. You can’t have that thought. You can’t voice that thought. It’s like, OK, I’m ready. It’s someone else’s turn.”

Guregian, an Orlando native, crashed into a dock in her debut as a coxswain. The hull cracked in two places, and the boat had to be sent back to the manufacturer to be repaired.

She went on to cox the men’s team at the University of Washington. Then succeeded two-time Olympic champion Mary Whipple at the stern of the U.S. women’s program, extending the golden reign from 2013-16.

U.S. coach Tom Terhaar still remembers the end of the Rio Olympic final. Guregian, 5 feet, 4 inches and 110 pounds, violently splashed her arms into the water at about 1,995 meters of a 2,000-meter race.

“And some of the other athletes going, well, I guess we crossed the finish line,” Terhaar said with a laugh. “She was probably too excited to even speak, and that was the way she could express it.”

But Guregian’s favorite memory was in the meat of the six-minute cauldron: the third quarter from 1000m to 1500m. The grittiest part of a race, she likes to say. The U.S. went from third to first and never looked back.

“The only thing I said [to the team] was, ‘We are the United States women’s eight,'” Guregian remembered, conjuring Whipple’s call during the Beijing 2008 final that started this Olympic run. “We were here for this, and this is what we want, and we are here for each other, and we’re here for the women that came before us, was enough to help us execute our race.”

That kind of statement showed what made Guregian a special coxswain.

“She isn’t sitting back there critiquing and setting herself apart from the performance,” Terhaar said. “She’s completely in it, completely one of them. … It’s never they. It’s always we.”

The U.S. women’s eight, dubbed a dynasty throughout the Rio Olympic cycle, since experienced major defeat for the first time in more than a decade. The Americans were fourth at worlds in 2017. After gold in 2018, they earned bronze this past summer with two other returning members from Rio (one of them coming out of retirement).

“That’s such a crummy feeling,” Guregian said. “My role on the team is two-fold because I’m helping people understand what they need to do in order to never be in that position again, but I’m also trying to convey to everyone, don’t overthink it.”

Guregian does more than that. She cuts her teammates’ hair. She is also mentoring Leigh Warner, the 2018 Stanford graduate and coxswain-in-waiting for the next Olympic cycle. Together, they created a jocular Instagram — @launchtalks — to “deal with the stresses of training.”

“I want to be part of [Warner’s] journey so that if she’s successful in 2024, I will feel like I have part of that,” Guregian said. “I will feel pride and ownership in her success, even though it’s not me executing.”

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U.S. women’s eight 11-year winning streak ends at World Rowing Championships

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The U.S. women’s eight team ended their 11-year winning streak with a fourth-place finish at the World Rowing Championships, which wrapped up today.

For over a decade, the squad has gone undefeated at the major international championships, winning three Olympic titles (2016, 2012, 2008) and eight world championship gold medals from 2006 to 2015.

At the 2017 World Championships held in Sarasota, Florida, however, the home country’s boat crossed the finish line behind new champions Romania, as well as silver and bronze medalists Canada and New Zealand. The U.S. team’s time of 6:09:250 was nearly three seconds behind Romania’s winning time of 6:06.400

It was also far slower than the world record time of 05:54.160, which the U.S. women’s eight set in 2013.

Only three members of the current lineup, which consists of eight rowers and one coxswain, were part of that 2013 team. The same three, Katelin Guregian, Emily Regan and Lauren Schmetterling, are also the only members who were on the gold-medal-winning squad at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

The U.S. picked up two silver medals in other events on the last day of the World Championships.

Meghan O’Leary and Ellen Tomek finished second in the women’s double sculls, which is the U.S.’s highest-ever finish in the event at a world championships. The oldest crew in the event, O’Leary and Tomek placed behind gold-medalists New Zealand, with Australia following to claim the bronze medal.

The U.S. men’s eight also earned a silver medal, while the world record holders from Germany lead the entire race en route to winning gold. It was the first world championship medal for a U.S. men’s boat since 2014.

The men’s eight has been coached this season by Mike Teti, who led the U.S. team to gold at the 2004 Athens Olympics. Before today’s race, he told Team USA of his young squad, “I think all the boats have undergraduates in them and some recent [college] graduates. It’s a good baseline to start the quadrennial with. I think the team will improve over the next three years.”

Dariush Aghai, a member of the team, told World Rowing after the race, “Feels great to medal today, got a great bunch of people here. We’ve only been together a short time as well. The last 500m I just zoned in to our cox and we managed a sprint.”

Overall, Italy won the medal table with nine total medals: three gold, three silver and three bronze. Rounding out the top three was New Zealand with seven and Australia with six medals.

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