Because of last year’s performance, Oria said he knew they needed to create “a high-performance team” for coastal races.
Though Team U.S.A. trained hard in the states before the tournament, they also took six weeks to train overseas, which Oria said was very important for not only preparation but team bonding. The team left for Wales six weeks early.
They spent a few weeks training in Spain, including participating as an exhibition entry in the Spanish Nationals competition, and then training 10 days in the cold and choppy coastal waters of Ireland.
Though they performed well in Spain, it was the rough conditions of Ireland that helped the team know what they should expect in Wales. In fact, Oria called the Ireland training stop “a key” to their success.
“That made our trip (to Wales) very successful,” he said. “When we crossed the ferry to the U.K., we felt it was warmer. And then the athletes performed.”
While the team as a whole team succeeded, participating in the finals in most of the competitions, the GMRC rowers were on center stage.
Bak was part of the Open Mixed Quad with Coxswain team that took third; Malachi Anderson, of Hamilton, and Gary Rought, of Mason, took 2nd in the junior men’s doubles; and Annalie Duncomb, of Mason, and her partner Annelise Hahl, of North Carolina, took third in the junior women’s double.
The women’s singles competition was canceled after the quarterfinals as the waters were too rough on the final day.
On Wednesday, Bak and his teammate Morgan Hummel, of Missouri and an Ohio State University graduate, were awarded U.S. Rowing’s 2022 Beach Sprint National Team Male and Female Athletes of the Year, respectively.
They were selected for the honor by the athletes and coaches of the Beach Spring National Team.
Humbled, Bak said “every person on the team deserves this award. They are all such incredible and inspirational people.
“I am proud to have had the opportunity to represent the U.S. overseas this year, and I hope to continue to do so in the future. That said, without the support and kindness of the team, this would not have been possible.”
Bak, who was knocked out of the quarter-finals in the 2021 World Rowing Beach Spring Finals, was determined to have a podium finish. In the men’s solo knock-out rounds, the University of Cincinnati rowing alum won every race by at least eight seconds, including knocking off the defending world champion, Italy’s Giovanni Ficarra.
Before he won the men’s single on Oct. 16, his team had a bronze-medal finish in the mixed quads with coxswain, the day prior. That finish boosted his confidence in his solo event.
“After winning bronze in the mixed quad with Peter Choi, Kory Rogers, Morgan Hummel, and Jeni Sorli, I knew that anything was possible, and I was able to go into the solo event with a clear mind and confidence to earn the U.S. its first gold medal in coastal rowing,” said Bak, who quit his job to focus on rowing. “This is the most successful season I have had in my rowing career.”
See photos from the team in a photo gallery at Journal-News.com while they participated in the 2022 World Rowing Coastal Championships and Beach Sprint Finals in Wales. journal-news.com