After Stellar Princeton’s career remained in rowing, Collins en route to the Olympics on US Women 4

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POWER STROKE: Claire Collins shows her form in training with the US National Program. Former Princeton University open rowing star Collins ’19 has been called up to the United States Rowing Olympic Team and will row 4 for the coxless women at the Tokyo Olympics later this month. The rowing competition will take place July 23-30 on the Sea Forest Waterway in Tokyo. (Courtesy photo of USRowing)

By Bill Alden

After Claire Collins finished a stellar career with Princeton University’s open rowing program in 2019 by being named a first-team All-American and helping the Tiger Varsity 8 win the Ivy League crown, Claire Collins wasn’t ready to give up the sport.

“I’ve been strong, I’ve had some good times on the erg, and we’ve got some good results on the water,” said Collins, who was also named the winner of the C. Otto von Keinbusch Award for Princeton’s top senior athlete during nominated for NCAA Woman of the Year in her senior citizen campaign.

“I still had a lot of fun. The national team would train at Princeton, so we saw the women here every now and then. It was inspiring. You have to listen to your gut instinct, it’s an exciting opportunity, but it’s a big commitment. I enjoyed the sport a lot and had bigger goals that solidified. That’s my next goal, that’s what I want to do after college. “

Following her gut instinct, Collins joined the US program and stayed at Lake Carnegie to work at the Princeton Training Center.

But as Collins got used to the more intense training and struggled to earn a spot in the 2020 Olympics, the pandemic stopped everything and they moved to McLean, Virginia.

The break proved to be a hidden blessing, however, as Collins was recently elected to the United States Olympic rowing team and will be rowing the coxless women’s four later this month at the Tokyo Olympics.

“I’m the second youngest person on the team; it takes a while, even though we competed at a high level in college, ”said Collins.

“In the national team, the training and the level are different. It takes most people a year or two to adapt and respond well to it. I think this extra year really helped me because I was more comfortable. I was adjusted, I was probably in a better mental headspace, although there were challenges. “

Another challenge for Collins was in lineing up the team, sustaining a rib injury last fall before going through the grueling selection process.

“I was out with this injury until mid to late December and when we got to California in January I was back,” said Collins.

“The selection process started with a couple regatta; Normally we would try to compete in the World Cup races in Europe, but we didn’t, so we started our own regatta and did it in pairs. You had to pick your couple partner, which was kind of crazy and we did three or four races. It was helpful for the trainers not only to see who was going fast, but also how to react to a regatta and stressful situation because we hadn’t been there for so long. Then we had a 2K on the erg and we had pretty much two weeks of sitting races in four and eight. At the end of this process, they chose an eight and a four. “

Emotions went high for Collins when she learned she was selected for the US Women 4 along with Stanford alumna Grace Luczak, former Cal standout Kendall Chase, and Madeleine Wanamaker, a former Wisconsin star.

“It was great to be able to call my parents,” recalls Collins.

“That was a very special moment. Even though I’ve gone through the whole process, you’re pinching yourself. I had to look at my name on a list in the list several times that day to make sure I wasn’t dreaming or making it up in my head. “

In the last weeks of June the boat went through a strenuous training program.

“We have two or three sessions a day, six days a week,” said Collins.

“A typical day consists of two rows, sometimes there are two rows and an elevator. Sometimes we do something, so one of those rowing sessions will instead be an erg session, depending on the water and the type of workout we want to do. Much of it is on the water at Carnegie, it’s about 2½ to 3 hours in the morning from about 7 to 10, and then the afternoon session is about 2 to 4 o’clock. “

The quartet has welded together on the water the whole time.

“It’s just such a fun boat, all natural; The chemistry between the personalities and the approach to training is really good, ”said Collins.

“We’ve all gone through the same grueling process, so it puts this great chip on your shoulder. We all know that everyone had a sit-down race there and earned their place. There are no questions about these things. It’s a lot of good focus and effort, everyone is on the same side every single shot. We’re very understanding, it’s great fun to fool around. Everyone is super excited, serious and motivated in a positive sense. “

The US rowers are currently working at a training camp in Honolulu, Hawaii, on the final preparations for the rowing competition that begins on July 23.

“We’re there for a week to acclimate,” said Collins. “The weather here is pretty similar to Tokyo. It’s pretty hot and humid. We are also there for the time change. “

Once in Tokyo, the rowers are confined to their accommodations in the Olympic Village and their venue on the Sea Forest Waterway.

“We have to leave within 48 hours of the end of our competition so that we don’t end up seeing some of our own teammates racing,” said Collins.

“Usually the first week of rowing so you can go to other events, meet other people, and go to graduation ceremonies. We have to get out of there. I wish it was a normal Olympics, but I’m still excited. “

While the U.S. rowers have not yet competed on the Tokyo layout, Collins and her teammates are unaffected by this lack of familiarity.

“The course is in the middle of the bay and there’s an overpass nearby, so it’s not the prettiest,” said Collins

“It can be pretty fast, there should be a tailwind there. It’s supposed to be a little choppy, but not crazy about waves. They had the Junior World Regatta and an Asian qualifier there, so they gave it a try. Apart from the fact that it’s pretty hot in summer and it’s not a super flat course, I haven’t heard anything wild. “

In a competition that seems to be wild as there have been many unknowns in the past two years as there has not been a regular World Cup rowing for the past two years, Collins believes that her boat can stand out by just leaning on it self-focused.

“We have to be as fast as possible; According to some veterans, the selection process here was the toughest they have ever gone through at the training center, ”said Collins.

“We just have to know that we have exceeded certain limits and that everything is within us. We have to take it to the limit and trust it. “

By trusting the process over the past two years, Collins has grown increasingly confident in her ability to push boundaries on the water.

“You would think that after eight or ten years, in the national team and in the Olympic team, I would know everything and I really don’t know. I still learn something new every day, ”said Collins.

“Over the past few years I’ve really refined this mentality day by day, trying to improve every day and really be in tune with my body and the boat. It makes those senses more hyperactive and just trains in an intelligent way. I watch the veterans who do this year after year. I also feel like after a year I was more confident in standing up for myself and even speaking in my boat after an exercise. Only these little pieces of trust have been added this year. “



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