Clayton's Kara Kohler rows her way on to her 2nd US Olympic Team

Clayton’s Kara Kohler rows her way on to her 2nd US Olympic Team

Clayton's Kara Kohler rows her way on to her 2nd US Olympic Team
Kara Kohler wins a spot on the US Olympic team, Feb. 26, 2021.

CLAYTON, CA – Clayton’s Kara Kohler claimed the first spot on the 2020 U.S. Olympic Rowing Team on Friday, winning the women’s single sculls final at the first 2020 U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Rowing at Nathan Benderson Park with an impressive victory in the finals to complete a dominating week in Sarasota.

While five boat classes were contested during the five-day event, only the winner of the women’s single sculls had the chance to earn her ticket to Tokyo, pending USOPC approval. Kohler was passed over for selection to the 2016 Rio Olympics team but is now headed to Tokyo in July.

Click here for complete results from today’s racing and watch  the finals on demand at and the NBC Sports App.

“It’s a huge relief,” Kohler said. “I’ve worked incredibly hard the past few years to race the single in, so there was a lot riding on today’s race. But, I had fun and trusted everything I’ve done up to this point. So, that was what I was thinking about while racing – trusting my preparation, thinking about my teammates, my coach and my family.”

Two-boat race

Kohler, the reigning world championships’ bronze medalist, and Cambridge Boat Club’s Gevvie Stone, the 2016 Olympic silver medalist in the event, quickly made it a two-boat race. Stone actually got off to a quicker start but Kohler pulled even and then ahead before the two scullers crossed the 500-meter mark.

Kohler and Stone were the pre-meet favorites and they had open water on the remainder of the four-boat finals field, with Kohler in the lead by about a half-length. Kohler used the second quarter of the race to extend her advantage, pushing her lead to a small bit of open water just after the midway point.

She continued to pull away during the third 500 meters before coming home with nearly a four-second victory. Kohler crossed the finish line with a time of 7:23.37, with Stone finishing in 7:27.17. Kristina Wagner finished third in 7:39.29, with Maggie Fellows coming in fourth in 7:45.67.

Ups and downs

“There were doubts for sure, but you can’t control, necessarily, what happens with the virus,” Kohler said about the last year. “I just tried to keep my focus on each day. (At the finish line) it was just a lot of emotions – the ups and the downs and all the challenges that these past four years have brought. Obviously, all the successes too. I’ve had a lot of fun racing the single, and I’m glad I get to keep doing it.”

While Kohler secured her spot on the Olympic team, the other four event winners in the men’s single sculls, men’s double sculls, lightweight women’s double sculls, and lightweight men’s double sculls will need to race at the Final Olympic Qualification Regatta May 15-17 in Lucerne, Switzerland, to earn their spots on the Olympic roster.

The Clayton Valley High School and Cal Berkeley grad raised her arms in triumph as she finished the face. Spectators weren’t allowed but her mom Caryl Kohler was on hand to watch her daughter clinch her second Olympic team berth. Kohler and Clayton diver Kristen Ipsen both represented America and each won bronze medals at the 2012 London Olympics. Ipsen also competed in Rio in 2016 before retiring.

Kohler, a 2012 Olympic bronze medalist in the women’s quadruple sculls, won all four of her races this week at the Trials in convincing fashion.

She began training in single sculls in 2018 and was 4th in 2018 and third in 2019 in her new event at the World Rowing Championships and she was voted 2019 USRowing female athlete of the year.

Just before the scheduled Olympic Trials last year the coronavirus pandemic brought her sport and most others to a grinding halt. And eventually the Tokyo Games were postponed 12 months. Kohler and the rest of her eventual US rowing team members are hoping these Games will take place as scheduled.

The Olympic Games Tokyo 2020  will be held July 23-Aug. 9, with rowing events slated to start on the morning of July 23.

Note: This summer’s Olympics are still called Tokyo Olympics 2020, even though they are taking place in 2021.