CLAYTON, CA (Sept. 14, 2023) — Clayton’s Kara Kohler accomplished her team goal but just missed out on achieving her personal target when she finished fourth last Sunday at the World Rowing Championships single sculls A finals in Belgrade, Serbia.
Kohler won her first three races in Belgrade and her victory in the second of four semi-finals secured a place for the United States in the event at next summer’s Paris Olympics where the Clayton Valley High and Cal Berkeley rower hopes to make her third Olympics appearance. She represented the US at the 2012 London winning a bronze medal and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics which were held in 2021.
The podium for the 2023 World Championships single sculls was exactly the same as the 2022 championships with the Netherlands’ Karolien Florijn getting the gold medal, New Zealand’s Emma Twigg silver and Australia’s Tara Rigney bronze as the trio topped a field of 32 rowers.
Tight finals race
Kohler was sixth off the start in a tight finals race, less than a length down on a medal position. She moved into fourth place in the second 500 meters, sitting about three-quarters of a length behind Rigney in third.
But Rigney was able to extend her advantage during the third 500 meters, gaining open water on Kohler by the 1,500-meter mark. Kohler held off Bulgaria’s Desislava Angelova to finish fourth in a 7:23.98, nearly three seconds behind Riney.
The Clayton rower overcame Rigney in the final 500 meters to win the second semifinal which moved her into the finals and secured a spot for the U.S. at the Paris Games. She got off the line in fourth position, sitting about a length off Rigney’s lead at the 500-meter mark. The American cut Rigney’s advantage to about a half-deck length at the midway point of the race and continued her push in the third quarter, cutting Rigney’s lead down to just a couple of feet at the 1,500-meter mark.
She made another move to pull her bowball ahead with about 350 meters to go and then pulled away for the victory. Kohler clocked a 7:44.66 to win the race by 1.76 seconds over Rigney.
Highs and Lows
After the semi-final win she said, “It’s emotional. I think at this point, I have experienced almost all the highs and lows of rowing the single, so to be back in the A final is such a relief, and to have the boat qualify [for Paris], I’m proud that I can add that to the USA tally of boats qualified with more to come. Pretty pumped, very excited.
“Simply belief in myself – knowing that I have all the tools within me and knowing that I have to trust (that),” Kohler said about what it took to win the semi. “There’s always going to be doubts, and how do you mentally push those aside and do what you know you’re capable of doing.”
Kohler, a 10-time national team member, had advanced to the semifinals by winning the third quarterfinal by open water. “Going up against Serbia, [I knew] the hometown energy would be tough. I’ve been there before, so I was ready for that,” Kohler said. “The goal was to win, so check that box and move on to the biggest race of the regatta – the A/B semifinal. Each race you have to reset. Everyone is going to bring their A game, so the goal is to always put the bowball first.”
Kohler was 13th last year at the Worlds and was the 2019 World Rowing Championships’ bronze medalist. She won a bronze medal at this year’s World Rowing Cup II.
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.