CIUDAD GUZMAN, Mexico (Reuters) - A chance encounter with an athletics trainer on a track at Ohio State University led to Pan-American Games single sculls champion Margot Shumway dropping basketball to take up rowing.
The 32-year-old American captured the gold medal on Lake Zapotlan on Tuesday, clocking seven minutes 53.05 seconds with Argentina’s Gabriela Best second in 7:55.55 and Canadian Isolda Penney third.
“This is the culmination of a lot of hard work and putting together a race plan that was good for me and having no regrets,” Shumway, who now has her sights set on next year’s Olympic Games in London, told Reuters in an interview at the water’s edge after her win.
“It’s certainly up there (with my best results), a win is a win, no matter what race it is.”
Shumway, who is from Westlake, Ohio, took up rowing in 2001 when she was at Ohio State University, where she graduated in Comparative Cultural Studies the following year.
“I wanted to play basketball and ended up getting approached by the novice (crew) coach,” said Shumway. “I was running on a track that unbeknownst to me was where the school team practiced and she walked onto the track as I was rounding a lap.
“She said ‘hey, are you an athlete here?’ and I said ‘no’ and she said ‘would you like to be?’ so that kind of caught my attention,” Shumway added.
“The sinker for me was when she said ‘you have the perfect body for rowing’ and having never been told I had a perfect body for anything I said ‘ok, I’m going to give this a try’.”
For Shumway, an office manager and keen musician, rowing became a major part of her life.
“I’d always been a competitor, I’d played soccer when I was really young and I played basketball, I’m an athlete at heart and I think it was a good transition for me starting to row,” said Shumway, as she enjoyed her moment in the sun.
“I loved it immediately, I loved the team aspect, I have to be thankful that (the Ohio coach) approached me.”
Shumway, who rows for Potomac Boat Club in Washington D.C., hopes her Pan-Am win can lead to a place in the U.S. team at next year’s Olympic Games.
“I believe I can make a positive contribution to the team. Whether I go or not I don’t know yet, but me winning races like this and pushing my limits will push my team mates and hopefully I can get there,” she said.
“If you’re performing, it’s something that can’t be ignored and you basically select yourself,” Shumway said.
“I like the single (sculls), it keeps me very honest, you can’t get away with a sub-par performance and for me it’s always been a gauge of how I am mentally and physically and if I’m at the top of my game I know that I can row fast, if I’m not it shows and I really like that.”
Editing by Frank Pingue