COVID-19 Changes the Game but not the Goal
What the spectators, coaches, and athletes did not know, however, was that in a few weeks, COVID-19 would put the world on lockdown, ending the 2020 spring racing season. Once the kick-off to a great season, the California Challenge Cup was transformed into the final race of the 2020 spring season for many, and for graduating seniors, the last race of their collegiate years.
For the close-knit community of rowers across California, this was an abrupt and unprecedented ending to the culmination of years of hard work geared towards regional and, ultimately, national championships. Rowers around the world were told to put down their oars, extensions of themselves that they had learned to live and breathe with.
However, much like they have pushed through day-after-day, and year-after-year of training, the senior class has kept positive in light of the situation, acknowledging the greater threat of the virus pandemic, many moving home and athletes quarantining themselves to practice social distancing.
For returning oarsmen, the perseverance of a rower never stops—all have already locked their eyes onto the next season, many bringing home ergs under the guidance of updated training schedules. Although the future is unknown, the spirit of the rower is to persevere, to strive in the face of challenges, qualities that will carry on in their lives, no matter what they do. It is devastating that the spring 2020 season has come to an end, but it is also an opportunity to be grateful for the memories created, and an opportunity to race one last time.
For seniors, it has become an opportunity to learn never to take a stroke, or anything they care about, for granted; much as the dynamics of a team change each year, every line-up, and every combination is a special and potentially fleeting thing. With the combined vision of UCI Head Coach Austin Brooks and Dr. Henry T. Nicholas III, the California Challenge Cup 2020 became both the unique environment and opportunity for oarsmen to see the fruits of their labors, race it out, and for many, find victory. And now, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, it became a last shot for the 2020 senior class to compete with their teammates.
Opportunities on the Horizon
With the successful California Challenge Cup as one example of the can-do spirit and creative vision of rowers, the abrupt end of the 2020 racing season has also created a platform for new ideas and support. University athletic governing bodies are providing athletes with another year of eligibility. As a result, many enterprising rowers and their universities are exploring ways to enable seniors to row one more year while working towards advanced degrees. Just imagine if one of the outputs from the COVID-19 pandemic is a whole new class of professionals with the perseverance, intelligence and almost absurd ability to succeed in the face of overwhelming challenges that we find in rowers. Hmmmmm, very interesting indeed, eh!
UCI Rowing ’83