Home grown rowing talent, Antje Von Seydlitz-Kurzbach won gold last week with her team at the 2012 World Rowing Under 23 Championships in Trakai, Lithuania.
Canada posted a time of 7:11.24 taking a lead late in the race to overcome Australia and Russia in the dying moments of the women’s four 2000 metre final.
Despite a strong start from the New Zealand team in the first half of the race Canada powered through the final 250 metres to capture their first gold of the competition.
Three days before the final Von Seydlitz-Kurzbach and her team won their heat and figured if they can pull of a solid race they might just make it to the podium. On race day the winds were strong in Trakai, forcing the Canadian women to adapt their mental readiness for the race.
As they lined up for the start, Von Seydlitz-Kurzbach said the wind was blowing so strong that boats were bobbing up and down in the water.
“I honestly don’t remember much of the race,” Von Sydlitz-Kurzbach said. “The start was all adrenaline, and this usually lasts about 20 strokes. Once we hit the 250 metre mark we settled to our body pace and were well ahead of the Russians beside us.”
In the first few minutes of the race the New Zealand team pulled ahead, with the Australian, Canadian and Russian teams right behind them. However, at the half way mark New Zealanders started to fall behind. Just as the Canadian boat was pulling ahead, their second seat Susanne Grainger missed a stroke, losing ground and veering dangerously close to port-side buoys. But after a couple split-second adjustments the ladies were back on track and made up some ground.
“We were past the 250 metre to go mark and the energy from the crowd was unreal,” Von Seydlitz-Kurzbach said. “I could feel our entire boat was in the zone, and then, all of a sudden, Christine yelled out that we had them. We were going to win.”
A few minutes later they had done it, winning gold for Canada, a first for the U23 team and a proud moment for Von Sydlitz-Kurzbach as she continues her journey as one of Canada’s elite rowers.
This past year has definitely been a trying one for Von Sydlitz-Kurzbach. Rowing and studying at the University of Victoria, Von Sydlitz-Kurzbach felt the pressure of elite competition. Trying to juggle school work, training and somewhat of a social life is not the easiest task in the world. Top that with an injury that took Von Sydlitz-Kurzbach out of competition for almost two months, she definitely had to overcome some challenges. As she finished her recovery, Von Sydlitz-Kurzbach headed for London, Ont to for the Canadian woman’s rowing team tryouts and despite not competing or training regularly for two months she impressed the coaches and was asked to join the team.
“I had no idea if I would survive the selection process, so I took it one day at a time,” Von Seydlitz-Kurzbach said. “The coaches were extremely supportive and ensured that I had proper treatment for my injury, which allowed me to focus on the task at hand.”
But to compete at an elite level of sport doesn’t come without it’s sacrifices and Von Seydlitz-Kurzbach knows that only to well.
“I had a hard time learning to say no to my friends when they invited me to a potluck, or for a coffee,” she said. “ It got to the point where I didn’t want to go to a study group anymore because too much time was wasted talking about things other than the homework. I literally rowed, went to class, ate, did homework, and slept.”
As harsh as this may sound, Von Seydlitz-Kurzbach knows better than most, this is what it takes to be the best.
For Von Seydlitz-Kurzbach those sacrifices, day in day out, paid off. Even as she tried to take it all in a relax after the race Von Seydlitz-Kurzbach still had a bit of a surreal feeling as victory began to set in.
“It feels pretty amazing, but the magnitude of our accomplishment hasn’t quite hit me yet,” Von Seydlitz-Kurzbach said. “But standing on that podium and hearing the Canadian national anthem play as they raised the flag was the most amazing and emotional experience I have had in a very long time.”