Kara Kohler seeks 2nd Olympic team berth next week at US Rowing trials

Kara Kohler seeks 2nd Olympic team berth this week at US Rowing trials

Kara Kohler seeks 2nd Olympic team berth next week at US Rowing trials
Kara Kohler

UPDATE Feb. 22, 2021: Kohler posts fastest time in Monday’s Time Trials.

CLAYTON, CA—Kara Kohler of Clayton will compete in the single sculls this week at the United States Rowing Olympic Trials in Sarasota, Florida. The 2019 USRowing female athlete of the year from Clayton will be seeking her second USA Olympic team berth after she was part of the bronze medal quad boat in London 2012.

Kohler was the 2019 World Rowing Championships’ bronze medalist and will face a jam-packed field of 37 women with 2016 Olympic silver medalist Gevvie Stone her likely strongest challenger. They will battle it out for the first spot on rowing’s 2020 U.S. Olympic Team.
The Tokyo Olympics are still set to take place July 23 – Aug. 8.

There are obvious concerns and rumors swirling about whether the Games, postponed from last summer due to the coronavirus pandemic, will be held. Kohler says, “Everything I hear is that the organizers are hell bent to hold the Games, but they won’t be the Olympics we dream off.” Rowing is scheduled to start on the opening day of this summer’s Games.

More opportunities

The single sculls trials are not necessarily the last opportunity for rowers like Kohler to make the USA Olympic team. Women who do not win the final race in Sarasota can find a partner and enter a boat in the upcoming double sculls trials and also may be selected for the quad selection camp, which is a coaches selection process not determined definitively on the water in a race.

Kohler, a Clayton Valley High and Cal Berkeley alum, recently turned 30 and considers herself “middle aged” in her sport. She says there are top-flight rowers at 37 and 38 years of age in the US camp. She trains out of the USRowing Training Center – Princeton.

She says Paris 2024 is still something she may strive for after she “definitely takes a break” following this year’s races. “I can see myself still rowing until then as I have room to improve in the singles.”

She raced in the quadruple sculls at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, winning a bronze medal. After the disappointment of not being selected for the team in Rio, Kohler switched to single sculls in 2018, finishing fourth at the world championships in her first season in the event and then winning a bronze medal at the 2019 World Rowing Championships in Austria.


Stone won a silver medal in single sculls at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro before taking two years off from international competition to focus on her medical residency in Boston. In 2019, Stone finished second to Kohler at the national team trials before teaming up with Cicely Madden in the double sculls for the World Championships.

“It was difficult figuring it out and not smooth by any means,” said Kohler about dealing with the postponement of last year’s trials just days before they were scheduled to begin. Trying to re-focus her preparation “my motivation was terrifyingly low during those first couple of months, which made training incredibly difficult.

“One of the first things I did after the postponement was adopt my dog, Luna. She has been the best mental relief for me during what has been a brutal year mentally. After taking some time to train at home during the summer to see family, I returned to the training center in September and approached the training just like I would any other year.”

This week, Kohler’s dad Mike was seen walking his daughter’s dog near their Dana Hills home in Clayton. Mom Caryl will be on hand for the Olympic Trials, although social distancing means spectators will be able to watch the races only along the water’s edge with coaches and athletes only allowed in the boatyard.


Kara Kohler had a COVID-19 test before she left Princeton for Florida and all competitors will be tested this Friday before the competition begins.

She took up rowing in 2009 as a freshman at Cal and this is the longest time since then that Kohler has gone without actual competition. Her last official race was 15 months ago in November 2019.

Coming into these Olympic Trials, Kohler is trying to stay focused and not get ahead of herself.

“(I’m trying to) stay focused on what I need to do today that will set me up well to achieve my goals come race day,” Kohler said. “My focus, as it is in any other year, is to get to the start line healthy and feeling fired up to race!”

While Kohler and Stone are the presumptive favorites heading into trials, the 37-woman single sculls field is loaded with national team veterans including Madden; USTC-Princeton’s Emily Huelskamp, Kate Roach, Sophia Vitas, Elizabeth Sonshine, Taylor Goetzinger, Erin Boxberger, Jenifer Forbes, Emily Delleman, Maureen McAuliffe and Maggie Fellows.

Besides women’s single sculls, the other four event winners in men’s single and 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 to claim their spots on the Olympic roster.

Racing opens with time trials on Monday. Heats will take place on Tuesday, with repechages on Wednesday. Thursday will feature semifinals, with finals taking place on Friday. Racing is scheduled to start at 8 a.m. on the first four days, with Friday’s racing beginning at 8:30 a.m. Semifinals and finals will be streamed live on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.

The second 2020 U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Team Trials will take place April 12-16 in West Windsor, N.J. That regatta will feature racing in the women’s double sculls, men’s quadruple sculls, men’s pair, PR1 men’s single sculls, PR1 women’s single sculls and PR2 mixed double sculls.

US Rowing contributed to this story.