Birthdate10 Jun 1988
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Athlete of the Month – March 2018
The first time Emily Regan competed internationally for the United States was back in 2010 at the World Rowing Under 23 Championships. She competed in the women’s eight and won gold.
In 2013 she joined the senior women’s eight and participated in its successes through to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Regan has also regularly doubled up in the four and in the eight at World Rowing level.
For international women’s day, Regan shares how she sees the future of rowing for women nationally and internationally and how she thinks women can overcome the challenges facing them in sport.
World Rowing: How did you discover rowing?
Emily Regan: I grew up in Buffalo, NY, where rowing has always been a relatively big sport. I always knew what rowing was, but I played other sports until I started school at Michigan State University in 2006. I picked the sport up pretty quickly and in 2008 attended a camp that selected the under-23 women’s eight. I was the youngest athlete there and was in way over my head. I didn’t make the team, but I knew I wanted to try again in the future. I went to the under-23 selection camp again in 2010 and I earned a spot in the eight. Once I graduated from college, I started training with the National team.
WR: Rio was your first Olympic Games. How would you define the experience?
ER: Rio was incredible. I’ve been a huge fan of the Olympics for as long as I can remember, so earning the opportunity to represent the United States at an Olympics is an experience I’m so proud of. It’s really amazing to be surrounded by the best of the best from so many different sports.
WR: Can you describe the Rio Olympic final in your own words?
ER: At the start I was nervous, but my nerves calmed when the race started. In the first 500 meters, I remember focusing completely in our boat and trying to do everything exactly as Katelin (the coxswain) was calling. As a boat, we were prepared for the race to play out in a lot of different ways and I trusted my teammates completely. I felt confident even as we were down through the 1000-meter mark because I knew that we had another gear. Coming into the sprint, my only thought was more, more, more. At the finish, I was emotional. I kept alternating between happy sobbing and just smiling in disbelief that this distant dream that we had worked towards for so long was a reality.
WR: You have doubled up several times at World Rowing Cup level in the four and in the eight. How do you prepare to take on that challenge?
ER: The training we do every day prepares you to double up at a regatta. When we do double up, there is more preparation prior to each day of racing and recovery is twice as important. I like to find a quiet place to disconnect between my races. I usually listen to music,quickly evaluate my first race and then put it out of my mind and start preparing for the next.
WR: Which race was your most difficult so far?
ER: The women’s four final at the 2014 World Rowing Championships. We placed second behind a really talented and fast New Zealand boat. I had a difficult year leading up to those championships and I was drained and really disappointed when the regatta season was finished. As a boat we had the potential to be much faster, but sometimes potential doesn’t translate to speed. As frustrating as those World Championships were for me, it ended up being a turning point in my lead up to the Rio Games. I figured some things out, made changes to the way I was training and saw some huge improvements. To this day, I don’t think I would have made our Olympic team if I hadn’t faced the adversity that I went through during the 2014 season.
WR: Where do you find your motivation?
ER: Improvement. My motivation is the challenge of trying to be the best rower I can possibly be and pushing the barriers of what I think I am capable of.
WR: What is your main strength in the boat?
ER: Mental toughness. I think I tend to rise to a challenge. The higher the pressure the better I am able to perform.
WR: How do you think your success has encouraged other women to pursue elite rowing?
ER: Hopefully it has shown younger girls that you don’t have to be perfect to be successful. Hard work and going the extra mile can help you attain your goals. Also, I walked on to my university’s rowing team when I was 18, so I think it shows that you don’t have to row your entire life to be successful as an elite athlete.
WR: How do you see the future of women's rowing in the United States ten years from now? Why?
ER: The speed of the athletes from the junior level all the way to elites is going to be so much faster. Title IX has only been in place for 46 years. It’s a law that prohibits discrimination based on gender in the US and provides equal opportunity for women to compete in sport in our collegiate system. Every year, we’re still seeing more and more young girls and women getting involved in sports which I think this will continue increasing the speed of women’s sports all the way up to the top levels. At both the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games over half of our female athletes were walk-ons at their universities.
WR: How do you see the future of female rowing internationally ten years from now? Why?
ER: I think we’re going to start seeing some significantly faster times and more competitive racing. 2018 is the first year that the World Rowing Championship programme provides equal opportunity for women and men, and I think that will translate to more countries providing opportunity for their female athletes. The 2017 women’s four field is a good example of how quickly things can change. In the span of a year, the entries jumped and the depth of the field was so much greater.
WR: What are some of the challenges you see that women encounter in the sport of rowing?
ER: There is a stigma that women’s sports are less competitive and entertaining than men’s sports and therefore our accomplishments are not as impressive. Also, women are under-represented in exercise science, especially in regards to injury and performance studies. This means women have to take greater ownership over our training adaptations and understanding our bodies.
WR: Who is your female rowing hero and why?
ER: Laurel Korholz. She is our coach and one of the few female coaches internationally. We’re really lucky to have her around our team every day. Before she was our coach she raced internationally for the United States until 2004. She is a trailblazer for women’s rowing in the United States and helped pave the way for a lot of the success our team has had over the last 15 years.
WR: Who are some of the other female athletes you admire and why?
ER: Billie Jean King and Serena Williams. They’ve both opened so many doors and broken down barriers for female athletes in the United States. And Ekaterina Karsten - I really admire the longevity of her career and can only imagine how difficult it is to stay so competitive over such a long time span.
WR: What is your next goal in rowing?
ER: We’re currently prepping as a team for our National Selection Regatta in May. I’m hoping to make some progress between now and then to have a good performance and help set me up for the rest of our selection throughout the summer.