SportsOlympics

Actions

Olympic rowers hold last practice in Sarasota

Michelle Sechser, Molly Reckford will compete in Tokyo
Michelle Sechser and Molly Reckford train at  Nat Benderson Park in Sarasota
Posted at 11:58 AM, Jun 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-21 12:59:20-04

SARASOTA, Fla. — It's just after 6 a.m. in Sarasota and the sun has barely started to rise at Nate Benderson Park.

Two Olympic athletes, with tools in hand, unpack their gear and get ready for a hard day of training.

"This is what we call rigging the boat," Michelle Sechser said. "We're attaching rigger parts to this brand new boat."

OK, that last part might not be typical, but for the past month, this is Sechser and Molly Reckford's version of it.

They wouldn't have it any other way.

Team USA's Molly Reckford (right) and Michelle Sechser (left)
Team USA's Molly Reckford (right) and Michelle Sechser (left)

The pair are members of Team USA's lightweight women's doubles sculls crew. On this day, they were having their last practice before heading west.

"We are going to the Olympics in Tokyo, Japan," Reckford said with a huge grin on her face.

Sechser, a California native, has been rowing for 20 years. This will be her first Olympics.

Reckford, a New Jersey native who also proclaims to be a snowbird here, is the younger of the two. She has spent the last few years dominating on the national team circuit.

They train two or three times a day. Two rows, then add in some weights, running, cross-training or a bike ride. At some point, they have to also work their day jobs.

Michelle Sechser and Molly Reckford train at Nat Benderson Park in Sarasota
Michelle Sechser and Molly Reckford train at Nat Benderson Park in Sarasota

They'll run drills with their coach, practicing different scenarios at varying their speeds.

"We will do some interval work. We'll practice different speeds, paces and different power efforts," Sechser, a 20-year veteran of the sport, said. "Some days we're going high hard and fast and some days it's just long, consistent aerobic work."

It's not all about the work though. A major component is communication. They can talk and chat while keeping in perfect sync.

It all comes together like yin and yang.

"My dreams depend entirely on Michelle and her dreams depend on me," Reckford said. "I trust that she's giving everything she can to get across the line and she trusts that I'm doing the same."

They will leave Sarasota, take a short training trip in Hawaii and then head to Tokyo.

"I'm going to the Olympics," Sechser said gleamingly.

Michelle Sechser and Molly Reckford train at Nat Benderson Park in Sarasota
Team USA's Michelle Sechser and Molly Reckford train at Nat Benderson Park in Sarasota

This journey has them both working toward one goal.

"It's a dream come true," Reckford said. "It's always nice to come home with a medal. But, for me personally, performing at my best is truly the goal."

After a year of cancellations and lockdowns, these two will finally get a chance to fulfill a lifelong goal, and one can not do it without the other.

"This boat is a very special boat and I think we can do great things," Reckford said. "If we put forward that kind of performance, our best, I think something special will happen."

Tokyo Olympics Medal Count as of late July 24, 2021