CLAYTON, CA (July 17, 2022) — Eleven years after her last trip to the historic Henley Royal Regatta, Clayton’s Kara Kohler won The Princess Royal Challenge Cup this month on the River Thames for her first international gold medal in single sculls.
This was second podium finish in two major competitions in Europe this summer for the Clayton Valley High and Cal Berkeley grad. Earlier she teamed with Sophia Vitas to take third at World Rowing Cup II in Poznan, Poland. The duo will represent the U.S. at the World Rowing Championships Sept. 18-25 in Racice, Czech Republic.
Two-time Olympian Kohler competed in the 2011 Henley Regatta, winning the Princess Grace Challenge Cup in the quad sculls.
This year Kohler, who is now training at the Texas Rowing Center in Austin, defeated Great Britain’s Imogen Grant by 2.25 lengths in the finals. Kohler and Grant got off the start about even before Kohler, who won a bronze medal in the single at the 2019 World Rowing Championships and represented America last year in the event at the Tokyo Olympics, began to pull away.
Kohler established her two-length lead during the middle third of the race before cruising to the victory.
She had won her semi-final over Ukraine’s Diana Dymchenko by 2.75 lengths. The Ukrainian had taken a length advantage thanks to a strong start and continued to lead Kohler with about 700 meters to go. That’s when the Clayton rower upped her rating and rowed through Dymchenko with about 500 meters to go and pulled away for the victory.
Kohler posted a notice on Facebook saying it “was an honor to claim the Princess Royal Challenge Cup at Henley Royal Regatta. Since it has been 11 years since my last appearance at Henley I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to fulfill my goal of winning the 1X here. Don’t know when I’ll be able to make it back but sure hope it’s not that long again!”
Kohler also competed in England in 2012 when she was part of the American bronze medal winning quad at the London Olympics.
At the World Cup II, the US had two boats racing in the final of the women’s double sculls. Kohler and Vitas racing as USA 1 earned the bronze medal. The Netherlands led from start to finish, clocking 6:54.67 to take gold.
China got off the line in second place before the Irish boat moved into silver-medal position in the second quarter of the race. USA 1 sat a couple of seconds behind China at the midway point before beginning to cut into their lead in the third 500 meters. Kohler and Vitas continued to press the Chinese boat over the final 500 meters before passing them to claim third. Ireland won the silver medal in a 6:59.03, with USA 1 clocking a 6:59.49 less than a second ahead of China.
After the finals Kohler, USRowing’s Female Athlete of the Year in 2019, said, “Still learning lots about the 2X. Different boat classes come with slightly different challenges. Sometimes you have to do less to get more speed and timing is everything.” She trained in Italy before heading to England for the Henley.
Due to travel restrictions in Japan around COVID-19, no one from Kohler’s family was able to attend her second Olympics. Mom Caryl Kohler was able to go to England this summer to watch the Henley Royal Regatta and they also attended Wimbledon for the world’s most famous tennis tournament.
Jay Bedecarré is a long-time resident and writer in Concord and Clayton. He began his newspaper writing career while still a senior at Mt. Diablo High School and he has been part of The Pioneer since its inception in 2003. Jay also operates Bay Area Festivals, presenting events around the San Francisco Bay Area including Bay Area KidFest annually in Downtown Concord.