July 25, 2012
SEATTLE - Madison Culp recently returned to Seattle from the 2012 World Rowing Under 23 Championships in Trakai, Lithuania. Culp was the seven seat of the victorious U.S. women's 8+. In an informative Q&A, GoHuskies.com correspondent Seamus Labrum caught up with the gold medalist, who is set to enter her senior year at Washington, to learn more about her experience overseas.
GoHuskies: How was your selection camp (a camp for selecting the U-23 8+)?
Culp: Selection camp was pretty brutal, but an exciting process. We stayed with host families in Syracuse and trained out of Syracuse University. With three practices a day there wasn't a lot of down time, so there were a lot of workouts, eating and sleeping which made one day feel like three. Although training with other girls who were really talented was awesome, it pushed me to perform to the best of my abilities everyday and paid off in the end.
GoHuskies: What did making the 8+ entail?
Culp: The selection for eight began in January when tryouts were held around the U.S. where athletes were tested on their fitness. From there, about 30 athletes were invited to selection camp in Syracuse. From the beginning the coaches made it clear that they wanted the eight to be as fast as possible and to find this they needed to test us. We had to perform a few fitness tests on the erg including a 2000-meter test. Our scores were ranked to see where everyone stood and who our biggest competition was amongst the girls in selection. Seat racing began shortly after and we did race pieces on the water in straight fours. Even if you won a seat race, you had to keep performing well everyday to prove your position on the team because the boat wasn't set until we arrived in Princeton in early July.
GoHuskies: When did you know officially that you would be representing the USA?
Culp: I had a feeling I would make the team after I won my seat races, but I knew that anything could happen and there were a lot of really talented girls in contention. I didn't officially know I would be representing the USA until I was handed my gear after we moved to Princeton, New Jersey in early July after more than a month of testing.
GoHuskies: What difficulties did you face (coaching, selection, etc.)?
Culp: One thing that I struggled with when I first began the selection process was nervousness. I put a lot of pressure on myself as an athlete and wanted to put myself in a position where everything I had worked so hard for the last seven years of my life was being put to the test, and at this level of competition that was really hard for me. I was the very first athlete to be seat raced at selection and my nerves definitely got the best of me, but after the first 500 meters I realized I had nothing to lose and just went with it. I realized I didn't have to do anything special or out of this world, I just needed to relax, do the things I knew how to and do them well. The rest took care of itself.
GoHuskies: How did the boat come together?
Culp: It was definitely a shock when we began rowing together as an eight because we all came from different programs, so our styles of rowing were completely different. There wasn't one day or one practice where we decided `this is how we are going to row,' it took a lot of strokes to find a common ground and really start to mesh and find a groove together as an eight. We were all so powerful and really just made that the focus of our rowing. There was nothing special about our rowing that led us to success, we were just able to assert our power together at the right moment and then let the boat find its speed.
GoHuskies: How was the adjustment to life in Lithuania?
Culp: The adjustment was a little bit difficult. We were used to eating food a lot more frequently then we were made available at the resort we were staying at, so we had to figure out ways of keeping our nutrition up. The time change didn't seem to affect us too much, which was good considering that other teams did not have to adjust as much as we did. The weather was actually a lot like Seattle in the summer. But, we were without Internet, television and our cell phones, which proved to be one of the biggest challenges of all.
GoHuskies: What was it like to represent the United States on the world stage?
Culp: I felt really proud to wear my USA gear. I've worked really hard to get to this point in my rowing career and to have the honor of representing my country and work with some of the most talented women in the U.S. was extremely humbling. It has always been a dream of mine and making it a reality was a really good feeling.
GoHuskies: Briefly walk me through your race.
Culp: Our final race played out exactly like we wanted it to. We knew from the very beginning that we needed to get off the blocks like we were only rowing 250 meters, because Great Britain was really fast off the start. We were pretty tense that morning, but once we were on water and coming onto the course we were nervous but relaxed because we knew we had to be if we wanted to get the boat going as fast as possible. Our first five strokes were clean and powerful and our high strokes as well, just really staying internal and driving as hard as possible trying to get our bow ball out in front by the settle strokes. Coming through the 500, we were pretty close with Great Britain but were confident in our race plan. We took two moves in the second 500 just for business and to take seats systematically and we did. Coming through the 1000-meter mark, we took a 20 stroke move that was really special to us and came from somewhere greater than ourselves. I've never experienced an emotional move like that and I've also never experienced so much power and heart directed towards a move like that in my entire life. During this move we opened water on the other teams and just kept moving. Our last 500 meters we were pretty much in control and watched the race unfold for second, which was something we talked about doing. Coming across the line first was one of the best feelings ever and everything I've worked for made sense at that moment.