Penn AC’s Erick Winstead competed on his first U.S. National Team this summer, culminating with his racing in the coxed pair at the World Rowing Championships in France earlier this month. Although he was understandably disappointed in his boat’s 8th place finish, he took a lot of positives out of his first Worlds experience and the entire summer, which also saw him earn a bronze medal with the U.S. Men’s Eight at the Pan Am Games in Canada.
“We didn’t have the results I hoped for, but tight racing gave me reassurance that competing with the best in the world is where I belong,” said Winstead.
What was the biggest difference you noticed about the quality of athletes at the World Championships?
“Great level of professionalism on the course – everybody is very poised. It’s a calm confidence that everybody has and that is something I tried to maintain when I was there.”
What was it like to be racing at Worlds?
“It was great to be racing against countries instead of clubs. It’s more than a race. You want to do as well as you can for the colors you are wearing.”
What was is like being part of the U.S. team, having come from a club out of the trials system?
“It was great meeting others on the team, a lot of whom I hope to row with in the future. Though everybody has their separate events, there is a genuine interest in each other’s racing because we want to represent the USA well as a whole. Regardless of where you came from or how you got there, we’re all wearing the same uniform and it becomes a supportive effort to succeed.”
What was the racing like in the coxed pair?
“The ‘rep’ was our best race. Just how close it was throughout the entirety of the race was what we expected. It was a hell of a race, but we were pissed off we didn’t make it.” (Winstead’s boat failed to qualify for the A-final, taking 5th, when 4 boats from the repechage qualified. 2nd to 5th places were all within 1.08 seconds!)
What did you learn from the B-final?
“It’s tough to get motivated for a B-final when it is a 2-boat race, but you have to find a way and unfortunately our performance fell short. But that result is going to provide a ton of motivation going forward.”
What makes the best rowers better than the all the other great athletes at Worlds?
“The ability to perform when it matters. You have to set that standard for yourself and have the mental capacity to execute your best race on the biggest stage.”
What did you think when you heard Penn AC had hired Sean Hall as its new head coach?
“It’s exciting and generates buzz around the club world. Coach Hall has been in our shoes as a former Penn AC athlete and knows what it takes to reach the pinnacle of the sport. It’s great for our club and for Philadelphia rowing as a whole. I know he has good relationships with other accomplished coaches on the river and I’m confident together they can bring Philly back to the forefront of club rowing.”
If you are able to reach your goals in the upcoming Olympic year, what will ultimately bring you that success?
“This summer was a big step in the right direction, but I need to continue to be hungry and keep that dream in sight. I need to imagine myself being there. I need to pick myself up from what happened at Worlds – that is something I will be thinking about a lot during training. I need to use every experience from this summer to propel me to Rio!”
Thank you Erick for sharing your experiences with us and best of luck in 2016!