U.S. Rowing Olympic teams complete: Nareg Guregian, Anders Weiss heading to Rio
Anders Weiss was previously cut from two separate boat camps. Then on Wednesday, he nearly blacked out during the biggest race of his life.
Against all odds, Weiss is now an Olympian.
Eleven crews entered Olympic Trials II on Sunday with hopes of punching their tickets to Rio. The final race for the men’s pair (M2-) – the last U.S. Olympic rowing team to be named – took place Wednesday morning amid cloudy and foggy conditions at Caspersen Rowing Center in West Windsor, New Jersey. Although fog delayed the start of the race, the action that ensued did not disappoint.
Weiss and his partner, Nareg Guregian, beat out 20 men – including five Olympians – vying for the very goal they accomplished: winning Olympic selection and representing Team USA in Rio.
The excitement that Guregian and Weiss felt after crossing the finish line in 6 minutes, 21.10 seconds and winning a spot on U.S. Rowing’s Olympic team came after previous failed attempts to accomplish just that.
Weiss was cut from the men’s four (M4-) and men’s eight (M8+) boat camps several months ago but stuck around in hopes of persevering and keeping his Rio dream alive. But first he needed to find a partner for the M2- race.
“I knew [Guregian] was the guy I wanted to row with, but he was still in contention for the eight [M8+] and the four [M4-] and a couple weeks later everyone got cut and [U.S. Rowing] decided the eight and four and unfortunately [Guregian] didn’t make it,” Weiss told NBCOlympics.com. “I knew right then and there I wanted to row with Nareg, he wanted to test the waters out with a few other people, which was the smart thing to do.
“He wanted to test every option and he did; fortunately for me, he picked me.”
Guregian and Weiss didn’t have much time to train together as a fairly new duo but they set goals and achieved them.
“Once we got in the pair we had about two months to row it,” Guregian told NBCOlympics.com. “Our goal was to leave no stone unturned, we wanted to get every practice in, make every practice potent and move forward and get faster.”
“Our goal was to work on our fitness, our technique and the emotional aspect of the racing,” Guregian said. “We worked very hard, put in a lot of miles and that’s what personally gave me the confidence to know that we would have a chance at winning this race.”
Posting the best time in their heats, crossing in 6:37.74 on Monday, Guregian and Weiss advanced straight to the semifinal – bypassing the repechage. On Tuesday morning, they set the tone in the semis with the fastest time, 6:25.10, making a statement as the team to beat on Wednesday morning’s final.
“We rode a little bit lower the last few days than we did today,” Guregian said. “We trusted that, we knew that was capable of qualifying for the final and it was a good confidence builder to know that it was good enough to beat some of the crews rowing just a touch lower than we normally do and know what we are capable of doing.”
“Today was full out, today there was no holding back,” Gurgerian said. “We rode a little bit higher than we normally do, than we did the last few days,” he said. “We knew we had to go for it and make every push perfect to win.”
Defeating the other three experienced crews of two-time Olympian Will Daly and Tom Dethlefs, Olympian Tom Peszek and Yohann Rigogne, and favorites Mike Gennaro and Tim Aghai was no easy and painless task.
“Going into the last 400 meters of the race, we bumped it up and started going for it,” Weiss said. “The last 250 was close and I started fading [blacking] out and Nareg said ‘we have to go now!’”
“I just graduated college,” Weiss said. “Getting in the pair with him, he’s so experienced and so knowledgeable about everything that needs to be done and he’s one of the hardest working guys I’ve ever met. I thought to myself ‘I can’t wimp out even though I can’t see’ because he’s putting the time, he’s putting the effort, he deserves this,” he said. “That was it, we sprinted and managed to come out ahead.”
Immediately after they finished, Guregian called to the media boat and other launch boats and asked for medical attention for Weiss.
“I couldn’t control my body,” said Weiss. “I couldn’t see anything, my legs wouldn’t respond to anything, my arms were done…”
“Shear pain, shear pain, it’s pushing yourself to the limit that you don’t even realize you have that extra gear. It’s one of those things where the body is shutting down completely, you are in so much pain, you can’t see but you know you just won and you are going to the Olympics and there is no better feeling than that.”
In total, U.S. Rowing qualified 11 out of a possible 14 boats:
Women's single sculls: Gevvie Stone
Women's pair: Grace Luczak and Felice Mueller
Women’s quadruple sculls: Adrienne Martelli, Grace Latz, Tracy Eisser and Megan Kalmoe
Lightweight men’s four: Robin Prendes, Tyler Nase, Edward King and Anthony Fahden
Men’s eight: Austin Hack, Rob Munn, Mike DiSanto, Steve Kasprzyk, Glenn Ochal, Alex Karwoski, Hans Struzyna, Sam Dommer and coxswain Sam Ojserkis
Men’s pair: Nareg Guregian and Anders Weiss
The men’s single, double and quadruple sculls did not qualify for Rio.