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BRSN Athletes of the Week Q&A: Lightweight Fours Rowers Ian Sigal (4), Conor Jones (3), Nigel H

Nigel Harriman ‘16

Ian Sigal ‘16

Conor Jones ‘16

Danny O’Neill ‘17

Gabby Steinl ‘17

(1) Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with BRSN and congratulations on a fantastic weekend!  The lightweight fours earned a gold medal at the 51st Head of the Charles with the silver medal boat finishing 35 seconds behind.  How does that feel?

Nigel Harriman: It’s hard to describe my feelings after crossing the line. I’m so immensely proud of everyone in my boat; they all showed up with a burning desire to win. The boat was made up of three seniors – including myself – and two juniors. This was the first time any of us have won the Head of the Charles, and this is the first gold medal the three seniors have won at Cornell. We were incredibly honored to represent both our team and the school on Sunday. It is moments like this that drive everyone on the team to work as hard as we can.

(2) Conditions were cold and windy in Boston.  How do you stay mentally and physically motivated under these circumstances?

Ian Sigal: We get used to cold weather very quickly; discomfort is a big part of rowing, and the frigid Ithaca winters really toughen you up!  Motivation has also never been a challenge for me or my teammates.  Nothing is more exhilarating than winning a big race, and the desire to win always keeps us going.  More importantly, four of my teammates and closest friends rely on me during each race.  I am always inspired to work hard so that I don’t let them down.

Danny O’ Neill: Worrying about the conditions will only negatively affect your performance, so I just accepted whatever they were going to be. All the other crews have to deal with the same thing so there is no reason to worry about it.

(3) Do you always race with the same coxswain and four rowers?  If yes, can you describe your boat’s dynamic?  If not, can you describe what it’s like to switch boat members?

Conor Jones: We are all juniors and seniors, so over the past three years we have spent time in a boat with one another. As a result, it is easy to figure out the rhythm and feel of these four rowers and coxswain. It really speaks to the quality of our program that we are able to mix and match our lineup so well and still have the boats move so fast.

Gabby Steinl: In the Fall, our lineups change weekly, daily, or even within one 2-hour practice.  Part of being a good coxswain is being able to get a new group of guys to row together and figure out what motivates them.  This lineup had just 2 full practices together, but clearly we were able to make it work.

(4) When did you first start rowing?

Nigel: I started rowing in 7th grade at Community Rowing Inc in Boston, MA.

Ian: I started my freshman year of high school, and since then this sport has been an important part of my life.

Conor: I started rowing my freshman year at Cornell. I played soccer and ran track in high school and after I took the swim test at Cornell, one of the coaches asked if I would be interested in rowing. I said “yes” and took a two-week PE class and got invited to join the team.

Danny: I started rowing in 8th grade at East End Rowing Institute.

Gabby: I walked on to the team 2 years ago with no prior experience when my freshman year suite mate, Meagan Perez from the Women’s Rowing team, suggested I try coxing given my size.

(5) Can you walk us through a typical training session?

Ian: There really isn’t a typical training session for us; the types of practices we run change dramatically from fall to winter to spring, and every practice has a different focus.  The one aspect that is shared among every practice is work.  We log a lot of hours on the water, typically rowing between 15 and 20 kilometers each practice.  That mileage helps us build the cardiovascular fitness, which is so necessary to succeed in this sport.

Conor: In the morning if there is no scheduled morning practice, I go to Teagle Hall and erg for about 40 minutes and bike for 20 minutes. In the afternoon, we have team practice where we are put into boats and go out into the inlet or onto the lake for about a 90-minute practice. During that time, we will do drills or just long stretches of rowing.

(6) Who has had the biggest influence on your rowing career? 

Danny: Definitely my brother. If he didn’t begin rowing it is very likely that I wouldn’t have. He also rowed at Cornell and was a senior on the team when I was a freshman. He still gives me advice to this day.

Gabby: My biggest influence is my freshman coach, Matt Rung. A lot of people have taught me about rowing and shared specific tips with be about coxing, but Coach Rung forced me to speak loud, take control, and have confidence in myself.  It made me uncomfortable early on, but now I’m grateful for these skills.

(7) What are the traits, physically and mentally, that a successful lightweight rower needs to have?

Nigel: So much of this sport is focused around learning how to win, but I believe that success comes from learning how to lose. At one point in your career you will inevitably lose a race, and to understand how to come back from that and improve is what defines success. You have to understand what your weaknesses are, and attack them. Rowing is a very unique sport in that how good you are is directly correlated with how hard you work, so you need to understand what caused you to lose and work very hard to fix it.

Ian: Physically, a lightweight rower should be lean and tall.  There is a 160 lb weight limit on each rower in the boat.

(8) If you weren’t a rower, what sport would you play?

Nigel: I’ve tried soccer, baseball, football, and basketball and I was awful at all of them. I really enjoy biking, so I guess cycling would be next on my list.

Ian: If I couldn’t row, I would definitely try out for the cross-country team.  I have always enjoyed running outdoors (and I don’t have coordination for ball sports).

Conor: Soccer. It’s still one of my favorite sports to play.

Danny: This is a tough question. I think I would be a long distance track runner. In an ideal world basketball, but I probably wouldn’t be good enough.

Gabby: I would also be a runner if I hadn’t been injured—but if I had been able to run I wouldn’t have discovered rowing.

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