The Great Eight Graces the Halls of Winsor

-by Joanna Chen and Brigitte Schmittlein-

One Friday afternoon, many students were confused by the sight of very tall, muscular women sporting athletic jackets waiting in the lunch line. These women made up the “Great Eight,” a group of the best female scullers in the world. They came from around the world to compete in the 50th Head of the Charles Regatta that weekend. Winsor crew team had the enviable opportunity to talk to them about their rowing experiences as Winsor rowers geared up to race on Sunday. A strong indicator of the strength of Winsor’s own crew program, two members of the boat were Winsor alums. Coxswain Erin Driscoll graduated Winsor in 2010 and went on to cox Radcliffe’s varsity lightweight boat. Winsor Coach Lisa Stone’s daughter, Gevvie Stone, sat stroke seat in the Great Eight. She graduated Winsor in 2003 and earned 7th in the women’s single scull at the London Olympics. The boat’s seven seat, Australian Kim Crow, also competed in London and won a bronze in the singles event and a silver in the doubles event. She was also a 2013 singles world champion. In six seat sat Czech Republic’s Mirka Knapkova, an Olympic singles gold medalist. Fifth seat was Carling Zeeman, a member of the Canadian U23 team (she has only been rowing for five years!). Fourth seat was Dutch olympian Chantal Achterberg, whose eight won bronze in London; she also won two world championships in the women’s four. Irish Olympian Sanita Puspere sat three seat, and Austrian Magdalena Lobnig sat two seat. Finally, Donata Vistartaite, who competed for Lithuania in London and was a 2013 world doubles champion, sat bow seat.

The Great 8 wins the Head of the Charles! (Row2k)
The Great 8 wins the Head of the Charles!

The Winsor crew team were eager to hear what the panel of accomplished women had to say. They answered questions about their favorite courses to race on and Aiguebelette, France (where Worlds tryouts took place this year) was a common favorite. Each person also discussed when they started rowing. Achterberg humorously recalls that boys were an important factor in her decision to join crew before realizing crew was her passion. Rowing is notorious for being a physically arduous sport and the Olympians were asked why they continued to row. Gevvie Stone summed it up nicely saying, “the addictive quality to winning” drives her to push herself. In the middle of the conversation Mirka from the Czech Republic pulled out her gold medal from the recent London Olympics, and everyone gasped in disbelief. Overcome with emotions, a couple of the girls started crying, as the fact they were sitting in the same room as Olympians became clear! After passing around the medal, (and taking many selfies with it), the lunch sadly had to come to an end. The entire team gathered for a group photo and reluctantly parted with the Great Eight. As Sophie Stone sums up, it was “the perfect motivation before our big race.”