Headshot of Olympic rower Kristi Wagner.

Olympian Kristi Wagner on Pairs Rowing

Release Date: October 27, 2023

Category: Podcast | Rowing

This week we’re delighted to have Olympic rower and podcaster Kristi Wagner on the show. Kristi competes in double sculls, finishing 5th at the Tokyo Olympics with Gevvie Stone. She now rows with Sophia Vitas and they won the world championships this year. We talked with Kristi about rowing, changing partners, and her new role as host of  the podcast The Other 3 Years.

Follow Kristi on Insta and be sure to subscribe to her podcast–it’s an excellent listen, and you’ll learn so much about what elite athletes go through in the years leading up to the Games.

We have a Kickstarter to help us raise money for our work in covering the 2024 Olympics and Paralympics from Paris. Please support our efforts here.

In our history moment, Alison looks at the rowing competition at Seoul 1988 and what spurred Australia to invest in its women’s rowing team.

In our visit to TKFLASTAN, we have news from:

Plus we have news from Paris 2024!

Thanks so much for listening, and until next time, keep the flame alive!

Photo courtesy of Kristi Wagner.


Note: This is an uncorrected machine-generated transcript and may contain errors. Please check its accuracy against the audio. Do not quote from the transcript; use the audio as the record of note.

Olympian Kristi Wagner on Rowing (Ep 310)

Jill: Hello and welcome to another episode of Keep the Flame Alive, the podcast for fans of the Olympics and Paralympics. If you love the games, we are the show for you. Each week we share stories from athletes and people behind the scenes to help you have more fun watching the games.

I’m your host, Jill Jaracz, joined as always by my lovely co host, Alison Brown. Alison, hello, how are

[00:00:47] Alison: you? I’m so glad we’re doing a rowing show that doesn’t involve the threat of me drowning.

[00:00:53] Jill: What? Oh, well, you know, last time we were in the boat, yes.

[00:00:57] Alison: Last time we did, uh, we had a great time with Tessagobo a few years ago, but this is a lot drier.

[00:01:06] Jill: We should get that 4D experience and just have water coming out of the computer at you.

[00:01:11] Alison: Also, it did not involve getting up at, what time did we get up when we met Gova, uh, like four

[00:01:16] Jill: o’clock in the morning? Something because we, we were there as the sun was coming up. It was pretty dark when we got to the dock, but, uh, that was a fun

[00:01:25] Alison: day.

I know. I have so much, I mean, even before we, we talked to our guest today, I have so much respect for rowers and the weather they have to deal with.

[00:01:34] Jill: Yes, yes. And it’s, it’s a lot of weather. Wind can be a factor. And when we rode, we rode on tubbies, which were fatter boats designed for beginners. And I remember watching an episode of The Amazing Race a few years ago, where they were in London or somewhere in the UK and had to do, uh, had the option of a rowing challenge and they put them in a [00:02:00] real boat and you could see how tippy those things were.

And I remember looking at that and going, Oh, I’m so glad Tessa gave us

[00:02:06] Alison: the tubbies.

[00:02:08] Jill: Tubbies for tubbies, right? And builds confidence quickly. So we are talking rowing today. We are talking with Olympian Kristi Wagner, who competes in double scales. She finished fifth at the Tokyo Olympics with partner Gevvie Stone, and she now rose with Sophia Vitas and they won the world championships this year.

We talked with Kristi about rowing, changing partners, and her new role as host of the podcast, The Other Three Years. Take a listen.

Kristi Wagner Interview

[00:02:38] Jill: Kristi Wagner, thank you so much for joining us. You do doubles, but there’s different doubles events in rowing. So explain for us the difference between the

two and what they’re called.

[00:02:49] Kristi Wagner: The biggest difference is that I do sculling, which is when you have two oars, so they’re like two little oars, one in each hand. , the eighths do sweep rowing, which is when you have one big oar and you kind of twist out to the side, and I’d say sweeping. Is like a bigger sport, quote unquote in the U S it’s what most it’s moving away from it a little bit, but what most high schools and colleges do, the U S isn’t so much known for sculling.

So that’s like the biggest difference. I have raised the past three years in the double, the open weight women’s double. So that just means it’s two people sculling and we don’t have a coxswain or anything. It’s just us. And. We also have a lightweight women’s rowing, which is under 130 pounds ish. It’s actually a little bit less than that cause it’s kilos.

, but I have no weight restrictions, so I am just me. , but the lightweight rowing, this is actually the last Olympics that they’ll compete in that. So it’s kind of sad, , because it’s leaving, , the Olympic program. .

[00:03:57] Alison: So that’s just getting phased out [00:04:00] as an event.

[00:04:02] Kristi Wagner: Yes. So lightweight rowing used to have more events at the Olympics.

And the thing is like the lightweight rowers are amazing. They are fierce and small and really strong. But they’re very close in speed to us. So I think that the argument is if these same individuals just didn’t have these weight restrictions, they could still compete. At this level. , they’re trying to, I believe, , make room for like coastal rowing, , which is kind of an up and coming sport.

So I believe that will enter the Olympic program in 2028.

[00:04:38] Alison: What’s the difference between coastal rowing and. I don’t know what you would call your rowing, flatwater rowing.

[00:04:44] Kristi Wagner: Okay. So that’s the difference then is the waves. So we row on in really, really skinny little boats. There can be waves, but primarily it’s pretty flat water. The beach sprints is like a crazy race. It’s in the ocean. They’re in these giant boats. So what it’s a really, actually very interesting sport. I have not done it, but literally somebody like, so you start on the beach, you sprint down the beach to the ocean, run in the boat, go out 250 meters.

So like a minute and a half, a minute around a buoy back sprint back up the beach. So, it’s a much faster paced sport it’s more spectator friendly and involves running. And involves running. Interesting. Interesting. Yeah. And like diving into your boat.

[00:05:37] Jill: I just pictured Alison trying to dive into a boat.

[00:05:40] Kristi Wagner: I’m sorry. I’m sorry. The pictures are like hilarious from Beached Friends. Well, well that’s good that everybody has issues.

[00:05:50] Alison: I am not tall enough. By any stretch to be a rower, that’s for sure. So, coxswain versus no coxswain, what’s, [00:06:00] what does that mean?

[00:06:01] Kristi Wagner: So, in eight, which is probably what a lot of people have seen, there’s one kind of smaller person who’s at the very back of the boat, Which is also sort of the front, because we go backwards, the rowers are facing backwards and they steer the boat, and they are wearing a microphone that has speakers down the boat, and they’re like, making the calls of the race, so they’re an interesting mix of teammates, Coach jockey, all of those things.

So we don’t have the, we don’t have a coxswain. It’s just the rowers in the boat in a double. We have no rudder. We just pressure steer, meaning like we pull a little harder on one side. Some of the boats have, do have a rudder and one of the athletes steers it with their foot. Their foot is on a swivel and they turn their toe.

To steer the boat, which is, I think it’s something a lot of people don’t realize, which is pretty cool. And we just make the calls internally, so usually the person in the bow, which is the front, but also the back. So that’s like the position that I sit in, in our double. I’ll make the calls. I like to be clear.

Like I am not talking the whole time. It’s sort of keywords every now and then, because your heart rate is pretty high the whole time during a race.

[00:07:17] Alison: Okay. So what are the differences between the two seats

[00:07:21] Kristi Wagner: and what do you call them? So the person that is, if you’re looking at a rowing boat in the front, Is in the bow of the boat and they’re following because we’re going backwards, so we would call them the bow, and then we would call the people that are in the back of the boat, which is really the front or the stern, the stroke, and they’re setting the rhythm.

So… In a double, it’s a little bit different than a bigger boat. But you want somebody that’s really like methodical, consistent, you know, going to set a really good pace in the stroke and then [00:08:00] people that can follow them in the vow. So, but especially in two people boats, like you just need to be able to work together.

More than anything. And at the elite level, it’s really just like a combination that works. I’d say in most of the boats, like every seat is important. Much like other sports, every position is important. You’re not gonna. Um, even if you’re the one making all the assists, they wouldn’t be scoring the goals if you weren’t making the assists.

So it’s still an important role.

[00:08:29] Jill: It’s interesting because if you’re the one calling the commands, but they’re the one setting the pace, like you say, okay, we’ve got to take it up and they’re going to go, okay, we’re taking it up this much. Yeah. That’s basically, and so you got to, there’s a lot, it seems like a lot of give and take or lead and follow in both

[00:08:45] Kristi Wagner: positions, right?

Rowing as a sport, I think requires a lot of trust and a lot of faith in your teammates because you’re right. Like, just cause I said something doesn’t mean that the other person has to do it. And kind of like, vice versa, she could feel something and I could be on a totally different page. So you talk about things and race plans and that’s why we practice so much so that we’re ready for any scenario that comes at us and.

You just want to trust that your gut reaction is going to be the same as the other person’s.

[00:09:21] Alison: Okay. So Jill warned you, I am totally fascinated by two person sports because it’s not quite a team. You don’t have multiples, but it’s not individual. It’s this very intense relationship. And how do you build that trust other than just time?

[00:09:37] Kristi Wagner: Yeah, it’s sort of like a relationship. I think, and I’ve been really lucky to row with a lot of different, really incredible women. And the woman that I just raced at the world championships with her name is Sophia. I rode with her last year as well. And we kind of [00:10:00] jumped in last year, didn’t have as much time.

And I think we both really liked each other and. You know, there were no problems, but we definitely hadn’t built that trust as much. Whereas this year, we had had so much more time together, so many more exp Like, I think it’s hard to fake that stuff. I think it is sort of a time thing, a… Going through experiences together, good and bad, learning that the other person is gonna be there when you need them to be there, them, they, learning that you’re gonna be there when they need you to be there, you know.

And that’s in the boat and out of the boat for us. But it is really hard to fake it, I think, especially in the two people

[00:10:47] Alison: boats. Who puts the partnership together? How do you find each other?

[00:10:51] Kristi Wagner: So this has been a big difference in US rowing up until this quadrennial. This Olympic quad, we had different governing structure.

So the head of us rowing was different and all of the small boats, meaning the one and two person boats were trials boats. So it was all sort of outside the us rowing system and everything was. Basically get in a boat with someone, go to a trial, like on individual athletes and on coaches. Now we have a new chief high performance director and he’s very much wants everyone to come together and they have everyone row with lots of different people and then put the combinations together, which I’ve been through both systems now, and it’s definitely stressful either way, but I do think that this system.

Makes more sense in, it shouldn’t really matter if you’re from California or New York or whatever. If we want to make the fastest combinations for our country, we need [00:12:00] to have everyone in one place so that you can try a lot of different things. He’s a rowing yenta. He’s from, he’s from the Netherlands, so we’re just.

Stealing other, no, not stealing, but

[00:12:15] Alison: importing, importing and, and utilizing. Yeah. How much does personality play into that versus physical compatibility?

[00:12:27] Kristi Wagner: I think personality plays a role, but I think it’s a lot more physical compatibility, but I do think that personality. Play a role. I feel really lucky because the group of women training in the U S right now is just.

Awesome, which isn’t to say they weren’t awesome before, like they were, it was just a very much a different era. And you said you spoke to Tessa who I’ve actually never even met Tessa, but she’s like a legend. And they, we used to be a country that just focused on eights and literally that was it, and we won the U S one, a lot of Olympics in the eight and none of the other boats did very well.

And now it’s like, well, can we see how many medals? The U S rowing team can get instead of focusing on one boat, it’s like, there’s all these different boats and all these different events. And so I just feel lucky to be part of this kind of new era. It’s just different.

[00:13:30] Alison: Is there a lot of switching?

Saying you would be better in twos as opposed to eights.

[00:13:38] Kristi Wagner: There is a bit of that. I think especially with the sculling versus the sweeping it’s just a bit of a different skillset and us scholars do spend a lot of time in singles. We all row the single a lot. And I do think you have to be a certain type of person that.

Is going to be doing that because it is a tough [00:14:00] go, um, spending a lot of time by yourself. So I think there is, but it’s also like rowing is rowing and it’s sort of just one path leads you down a certain way. And. Then you end up somewhere.

[00:14:15] Alison: In terms of physical compatibility, does it matter if people are left handed and right handed? Like I would think it would balance the boat better. I have no idea.

[00:14:25] Kristi Wagner: That’s such a good question though.

[00:14:27] Alison: I

[00:14:28] Kristi Wagner: have like Are you both right handed? I think so. But I literally have no idea if that plays a role in how they pick people’s sides.

Because when you’re sweeping, you do use one hand. And I used my right hand. I don’t know.

[00:14:47] Alison: See, I’m left handed, so I notice those things.

[00:14:49] Kristi Wagner: Yeah. Right handed people just,

[00:14:51] Alison: it’s a right handed world.

[00:14:55] Kristi Wagner: But

[00:14:56] Jill: other parts of compatibility, what, is it like size? Do you want to be the same height? Do you want to be similar weights?

What do you want? What do you

[00:15:05] Kristi Wagner: look for? So yes and no. I think there are. Really good doubles combinations of people that are really similar in stature and then sometimes people are really different in stature. Sophia and I are pretty similar. we’re both like pretty tall and lanky.

But I’ve seen fast combinations. I’ve been in fast combinations with people that are pretty different. There’s a lot of adjustability in the seats that we sit in. Like you can move the feet, you can adjust the rigors, you can adjust the seat. So they do, the coaches will do a lot of things to get us in the same setup.

It doesn’t matter, what size we are, they’ll make sure that we’re, putting the blades in at the same place, taking them out at the same place, even if our individual setups are a little different.

[00:15:57] Alison: How much customization[00:16:00] is going on with those seats and are they sort of personally molded to your body?

[00:16:05] Kristi Wagner: Um, so we are little bit of divas, I’d say, once you get to the elite level, we’re like princess and the pea, something doesn’t feel quite right, um, but you can do a lot of stuff. I think it is important to be comfortable, especially when you’re at the elite level at the high school and novice and introductory levels.

You are only changing a few things. It’s pretty much a standard operation. But Yeah, there are a lot of changes you can make in the boat.

[00:16:42] Jill: Do you have a boat that is just… Your and Sophie’s right now, or do you bring your own seat and pop it in or what’s going on there for customization?

[00:16:52] Kristi Wagner: So we do so us rowing is sponsored by a boat manufacturer and company called Philippi. So they supply boats for the U. S. national team to use both in the U. S. and abroad. And. if you’re racing at a world championship, there’ll be a boat just for you, for your country, for the U S women’s double, there is a boat.

But it’s pretty, I’d say it would take a coach like about an hour to rig a double maybe a little more if it was brand new, but. They have measurements they can find. And when we got to Europe, we had been rowing in a boat in the U S even though it’s the same boat, like the same number, serial number, they’ll just make sure all the things are the same or get up and then it should hypothetically feel the same.

They don’t always though.

[00:17:41] Alison: Is there cheating that goes on with setting those things? Like, is there something that’s illegal to do that people want to do to make the boat faster?

[00:17:50] Kristi Wagner: No. So we have, the boats have to weigh a certain amount and your boat can be randomly weighed at any.

During a regatta. [00:18:00] So I’d say that’s the only like cheating thing. There are certain things I think that are illegal. Like we have to have certain things on our boats, but honestly, so in the women’s double, every country is rowing the exact same boat. Like it is truly a. equal playing field. It just, that’s not true for every boat class.

It just happens to be in this boat class, people row in the same shells.

[00:18:27] Jill: how do you develop race strategies? It’s a long race. 2, 000 meters ain’t no

[00:18:33] Kristi Wagner: joke. It’s a mile and a quarter of basically sprinting. we do a lot of race prep and a lot of rowing is such an interesting sport because we train so much for very few, kind of six to eight minute races.

Like on average I train over four hours a day, which is. Kind of crazy. And how many races did you do this year?

Five or six, but each of those would have three to four events. and this was kind of a bigger race year, I think last year it was less than that. so very different, like for the podcast, I interviewed a cross country skier and she’s like, we went to 30 world cups or something. I’m like, Oh my gosh, so different.

But the race strategy, a bit of it is. Things the coaches suggest a bit of it as things we’ve tried and practice or in races and seeing what works. A bit of it is just like, you’re in the race and you’ve got to go like it’s now or never. Especially in the two person boats, it’s a little more like jockeying.

I think in a bigger boat, you have to be a little more internal because there’s so many people. You have to have a little bit more of like a, this is what we’re going to do. And then this is what we’re going to do. And, but we can like. Adlib a little bit more in the small boat.

[00:19:59] Alison: What’s [00:20:00] going through your head as you’re racing?

How do you focus and

[00:20:04] Kristi Wagner: what do you think about? I really just try to fall. I’m usually following, so I’m usually just trying to stay with the person in front of me and like be on the stroke that I’m on and not thinking. Oh no, we’re behind, or oh yay, we’re ahead, or okay, this needs to happen next, like just trying to really focus on what I’m doing, and I think, like, redlining.

The whole time and not try it. Cause at this level I’ve learned over the years, you can’t conserve really that much, like you have to be going hard the whole time. And I think if you’re thinking ahead too far, you’re not able to be going as hard as you can in that current moment. And then there’s some like technical cues or.

Okay. We’re coming up to this point. We were going to do a move. I’ll call the move. Look at, you know, turning quickly. This is where these boats are. Not a whole lot.

[00:21:06] Jill: Do you count strokes endlessly?

[00:21:09] Kristi Wagner: I am a stroke counter. Wish I wasn’t. Laughter It’s… Yes, I am a stroke counter. Not as bad as some people. Some people count literally all the time. I try to limit myself as much as possible. But is

[00:21:29] Jill: that then like you also know how many strokes you’re supposed to be taking or is it just I’m counting because that’s all my brain can do right

[00:21:39] Kristi Wagner: now?

I guess it depends. Sometimes in practice, it’s nice to count because this is how many strokes I’m supposed to be taking and it’ll just make it go by faster or it’s a good way to break something up in a race. I’m usually this is. I’ll try to count to ten. I can’t get to ten. I’ll try to count to seven.[00:22:00]


[00:22:01] Alison: little bit of that. So when you’re talking about the race plan, how much goes into who you’re going to be facing and what round? Are you paying attention to, oh, we have this person in our heat, so we have to do

[00:22:16] Kristi Wagner: X?

I would say a little bit of that, but usually it’s…

We need to come in this place or we need to do this in this round to avoid, going to the rep or whatever it is. Obviously you are aware of the people you’re racing and. Maybe you’ve raised them before, maybe whatever, but I think, especially this year, we were pretty. Internally focused on what we were going to do and just kind of using people as competition to see how fast we could go and see what kind of results we could have.

We did talk a lot about playing like offense instead of defense. Sometimes when you’re ahead, especially in an earlier round, it’s really easy to just fall into a. Okay, I’m just going to play defense and not let this boat catch me instead of I’m going to play offense and see how fast I can go.

[00:23:14] Alison: When you have multiple rounds in a day, what are you doing in between?

[00:23:18] Kristi Wagner: So we did race at a world cup this year and we raced in two events, the double and the quad. So. We had three days of racing with two races each day, like max two hours in between, which was a lot. It was really hot. Also we just, hydrate.

Unfortunately, there’s no like secret sauce. It’s just, hydrating, eating what you can spinning on the bike a little bit. Like for me changing my clothes, like putting on a new uni. Was really helpful. I think just trying to come down so that I could go back up instead of just staying. but if you’ve got a little bit longer, [00:24:00] like.

Getting a flush from a PT or, maybe an ice bath or something. We didn’t have quite enough time in between then.

[00:24:07] Jill: what is it like when you have to add in the rep massage

[00:24:11] Kristi Wagner: round? rowing is an interesting, I actually don’t, I think other sports have reps as well. Athletics is getting it for Paris.

[00:24:19] Jill: Oh, they’re adding it.

[00:24:20] Kristi Wagner: Yeah.

[00:24:21] Alison: I’m just so excited to hear you calling it rep because I cannot say this word. Repishage?

[00:24:26] Kristi Wagner: I can’t.

[00:24:27] Alison: It’s just one of those things. It never comes off my, my tongue properly. So. You have given me an out, Kristi, for,

[00:24:35] Kristi Wagner: for Paris. You can say rep. Thank you. So it means last chance or second chance in French, which French used to be the international language or like the official language of rowing.

So they said all the starting commands in French as well. And that’s what’s carried over. Fun fact. But in rowing, basically nobody gets out in the first round. Which is because they sort of seed the races, but some of it’s a bit random. So I think it’s their way of like, not having to fully seed because no one’s gonna get.

Eliminated in that first round, obviously you want to race as few times as possible because you want to conserve energy for the finals for the most important races. That being said, I’ve also had regattas where racing in the rep was helpful because it’s another rate. Like when we race at the world championships, the racing is over seven days.

So this year we raced on Monday and we didn’t race again until Friday. Like if we had erased in the rep on Wednesday, we would have been fine. Like we were so fit. so. In that sense, if you’re a new combination, like maybe another run down the course is actually a good thing. It’s during something like a world cup where you going between six races to seven races in three days is a lot.

And that’s when you really want to avoid [00:26:00] it. Or if this year, the men’s single at worlds had like tons of entries. They had heats, reps, quarters, semis, they had a lot of rounds. So in that, maybe it’s something you want to avoid.

At the start of the

[00:26:12] Jill: race, you got the people holding onto the boat, they’re standing on the dock. How much can they affect a race or not affect a race, or what are they supposed to do?

[00:26:24] Kristi Wagner: So they just hold the stern and when we’re racing at a world championship, they also have this thing called a boot that comes up and holds the bow of the boat.

So our boat is basically like being held on either end. So that’s awesome because you don’t have to do, like the boats aren’t going to move. You don’t have to do anything. And then the app drops and the stakeboater, let’s go and. You’re off. Sometimes we have to like, they don’t have that boot. So you’re both kind of like fraying in the wind and you have to adjust your point, but the stakeholders I don’t think they could really, I don’t even think if you tried to keep holding on when we started rowing that you could, like, I don’t think a person would be strong enough.

Well, just cause they’re holding such a little part of it. I don’t, think they would be able to do it. Especially because they’re in such an awkward position. They’re like basically laying on a diving board, like with their arm down, holding in, down in the water. Sometimes the stake boat holders, like at our domestic U S rowing events, it’s like people’s moms or like the U S rowing staff.

And that maybe that’s a little distracting. Cause it’s someone, you know, and you’re just like,

[00:27:33] Jill: Hey, how’s it going? Do a good job, honey.

[00:27:38] Kristi Wagner: Yeah.

[00:27:40] Alison: Do you ever talk to them beforehand?

[00:27:42] Kristi Wagner: We do like maybe not a world champ. Well. Maybe you talk to them to make sure that you’re like aligned, but, it can be fun to talk to people at a domestic race or an early season race, especially sometimes they’re kids.

And so it’s like, Hey, how’s it going? It’s fun.[00:28:00]

[00:28:00] Jill: It’s going to be my job. We have a little, when it’s, when the Olympics are on, uh, we have a little feature on our show. What officiating or volunteer job would you like to do? And this has

[00:28:09] Kristi Wagner: been on my list. It’s actually pretty cool. Like I’ve, I mean, we’ve all, most rowers I would assume have done it.

And if it’s a nice day, like it’s when it’s really cold and you’re out there for a long time, that’s when you don’t want to be doing it. But if it’s nice, like.

[00:28:25] Alison: What’s ideal conditions, speaking of nice weather, in terms of temperature and humidity

[00:28:31] Kristi Wagner: and wind? I’d say not too hot, like a 70. Maybe sort of sunny and flat, like no wind, flat water is what we aim for.

We do not get that very often. And they very rarely choose the Olympics because of the rowing venue. So it is usually quite windy at the Olympics. It was very windy in Japan.

[00:28:58] Alison: We’re going to go back to that, but before we do, I just want to ask, have you been to the facility in

[00:29:03] Kristi Wagner: France? I have not So before the Olympics, they always have the junior world championship, rowing championships there. And I think they had to cancel two of the days of racing and like condense. And it was, I think, not amazing. So. we’re pretty, we’re expecting it to be pretty windy in Paris. So

[00:29:24] Jill: then how does that factor into your race plans when you have to deal with wind?

And I would imagine it depends on which direction the wind is coming

[00:29:32] Kristi Wagner: from. Yeah. Yes. If it’s a headwind and it’s going to be a longer race, sometimes they’ll lighten up our load a little bit so that It feels a little bit more like it would normally, and maybe the reverse if it’s a really, really strong tailwind and we’re going really, really fast.

but you just, there are like slight technical changes, but really like it’s just rowing you just have to deal with the conditions better than the other [00:30:00] people. And I think. Getting really concerned about the conditions is not a great thing. I like to be like, headwind, love a headwind, tailwind, love a tailwind, crosswind, love a crosswind, like flatwater, sign me up.

You know, if you’ve rowed long enough, you’ve rowed and everything.

[00:30:20] Jill: when you have something like a crosswind, is it. easier with skulls versus sweeping to keep straight because you’ve got both, you’re controlling both sides of the

[00:30:31] Kristi Wagner: boat? I think so. I feel like Well, so there is a, there’s a pair, which is two people, one or on each side, definitely one of the most challenging rowing, boat classes.

And I think a crosswind for a boat like that is really, really tough because yeah, you only have one side that you’re controlling and, we still get blown a lot. and you don’t want to hit the buoys. That’s a bit of a bummer. It can like really mess you up. Cause we’re in basically like big swimming lane lines and the buoys are pretty unforgiving.

But again, like. Every boat is dealing with it. So that’s just what I always try to remember. Like, it’s not like I’m being asked to go row in this, but New Zealand is getting to row in pristine conditions. Like we’re all in the same situation. So it should be theoretically okay.

[00:31:24] Alison: Were you about to say we’re all in the same boat?

We’re all

[00:31:27] Jill: in the same boat.

[00:31:30] Alison: When you hit a buoy, does it, do you get that like vibration through the oars?

[00:31:36] Kristi Wagner: Yes. It’s not ideal.

[00:31:40] Alison: It’s like,

okay. So you want to talk about Tokyo? Do you have, okay, let’s talk about Tokyo. So we had heat, we had wind, we had COVID, we had a lot of things going on. So do you notice when fans are there or not there in rowing?

[00:31:56] Kristi Wagner: it was my first Olympics and I think [00:32:00] that was actually a good, I think people that were coming back for their second and a third Olympics.

It was a lot harder for them because they had experienced A non COVID Olympics or like soccer or volleyball or something where fans normally attend. Tokyo felt to me, obviously there were COVID restrictions. Like I don’t normally eat in a glass bubble in a dining hall. Like that’s not.

Normal, but normally we go on rowing trips. We don’t see people. We are in kind of our own bubble. We just go to the rowing venue in the hotel. Like, there aren’t a ton of fans. Obviously, I would have loved for my parents and my family and friends to be there, but There’s not normally thousands of screaming fans.

so I think because I had not experienced like London was apparently crazy for rowing. There were just so many fans, but I, I wasn’t there. So for me, it was weird. Like the empty stands were a little bit eerie and just the, you know, when we would drive past some of the other venues, it was a little just.

It’s creepy to see everything so empty and sad because I feel like Tokyo did such an amazing job like putting together all of this stuff and I really feel like it would have been such an amazing experience for all the fans. So that was just sad because I felt bad and the volunteers were all so nice and amazing.

the staff and volunteers did such a good job. So I felt bad in that sense, but in terms of my own experience, of course, it’s so cool to go to the Olympics and you want to experience all the Olympics things, but first you want to focus on your. And it was pretty easy to do that because

[00:33:48] Alison: of

[00:33:48] Kristi Wagner: COVID. When you go to

[00:33:51] Jill: an event like the Olympics and maybe even some of your world champs and world cup stuff, what is your logistical process? are you just given a ticket [00:34:00] what do you have to, cause we’re in the middle of Paris preparations right now. And I was just very curious to think, what do you guys have to do?

We have to pray. We get a hotel.

[00:34:10] Kristi Wagner: So we don’t have to do that much. We have logistics planned by our U. S. rowing staff who do a very good job planning everything for us. They tell us when to show up at a bus or maybe at the airport or whatever. And then as soon as we are. Somewhere with us rowing, I am a five year old child.

somebody tells me when to get up, when to go there, when to go there. I was saying recently it’s always a little weird coming home and you’re like, I have to do things for myself. but it’s nice. you get, it’s a lot of hotel time. So, and the Olympics was the same, We went for a pre camp in Hawaii, so once we were there, it was just all planned for us.

[00:34:58] Jill: The oars and the boat stay together and you just hop in. Correct? Or do you have your own oars that you have to travel with?

[00:35:04] Kristi Wagner: Oh, well, we don’t travel with, you can fly with oars.

But we usually order them and they’ll all show up. Wherever we’re going but the oars do come out of the boat and then also the riggers come off the boat for travel So put the riggers on and then our oars in we take our oars in and out like every time we row Are your OS specific to you?

There are different kinds of oss and then we have different handles. Again, we’re all little divas, , so,

[00:35:32] Jill: what are yours like, do they come on a box and you have a little tape on yours that are like, these are

[00:35:37] Kristi Wagner: Christie’s. is this sort of, I usually bring some with me just in case.

Cause the handles are like small. I have some over there actually. They’re like small cause they just screw right off. There’s like a tool. Oh, okay. I use the small black suede concept two handles. there’s just a few different kinds, but I happen to like them for my hands. It’s just what you’re used to.

Have you ever

[00:35:59] Jill: been in a [00:36:00] situation where your boat starts taking on water?

[00:36:02] Kristi Wagner: Yeah. I have. I’ve never been in a situation where I was so far from the dock or, like, it was so bad that I Was con like overly concerned but, I mean, it’s weather, so, things, you’re on the water, and suddenly, it’s like, really, really windy, or a thunderstorm, or whatever, and, those are the, that’s the scary moments, because, We, it’s not like we launched in that, you know, it just happened.

So yeah, one time we were out and it got really, really windy and we’re rowing that and they’re like, my boat was filling with water. And the coach was like, if you sink, just swim to the dock. Like, forget about the boat. I’m like, this boat is the most expensive thing I

[00:36:55] Alison: own.

Save yourself! Like,

[00:37:01] Kristi Wagner: all of my money is invested in this carbon fiber boat. But we have, I have insurance, so it would have been okay.

[00:37:08] Alison: So, are you insuring that like you insure a car?

[00:37:12] Kristi Wagner: I mean, they’re expensive. Okay,

[00:37:15] Jill: okay. A, do they have bundling?

[00:37:20] Kristi Wagner: No, it’s not exactly like a car it’s you value what all of your equipment is, you can include like your oars and whatever like our little GPS tracking devices and all that stuff. Yeah, it’s pretty good though. Like I had some damage to about a couple of years ago and. The deductible is really not that high and they, it’s pretty easy to like file a claim and everything.

Like it would have been a lot more expensive if I didn’t have boat insurance. So. Okay, so how much is a boat? A single, a brand new single is probably 10, 000 to [00:38:00] 14, 000. Of course, you could get a recreational boat for less, but you’d be pretty hard pressed to find a boat for under, I’d say, 3, 000 to 4, 000.

Like, even a recreational boat. Maybe like, They have these things that go on like a stand up paddle board that I think you could get for like a thousand dollars or something like that. and then the bigger the boat, the more expensive it is. So an eight is…

[00:38:26] Alison: steep. So when you say you have two boats, are those the boats that you’re training in?

Because you were saying before you get the competition boats provided for you.

[00:38:35] Kristi Wagner: So when I’m training, so I U. S. Rowing doesn’t have really a centralized system, at least for the scullers. So for… The first part of the year, which is I’m also like in, I don’t know if this is the way in other sports in rowing, you’re stuck in like a calendar school year because all of our racing happens in the summer, you know, at the end of the summer.

So then your fall is like the beginning of the year. So I’m all messed up, but in the fall into the winter, I train with my high performance team in upstate New York. And I row in like my own, my training boat, my single and I have a double as well, but when I go to us rowing camps, we row in that fleet of boats that I was mentioning before.

So we start going to us around camps in like early January. Where

[00:39:27] Alison: would those be that you can row in early January?

[00:39:30] Kristi Wagner: So we’re actually first going to Colorado Springs to do an altitude camp, which is not rowing can’t row in Colorado in early January. And then our camps this year are all going to be in Sarasota, Florida.

There’s a pretty fancy rowing venue there in Bradenton, actually. So this past year, we also spent some time in Chula Vista at the old Olympic training center there, but this year we’re going to just be in Sarasota. And then in the summer, we also spend a lot of time in [00:40:00] Princeton, New Jersey, which is sort of where us rowing is headquartered.

But also not really anymore. It’s a little confusing. No,

[00:40:08] Alison: because I was a little concerned about you training in late fall in upstate New

[00:40:12] Kristi Wagner: York. Yeah, that’s when we have to be careful. November rowing in the northeast is actually quite nice. Like, it’s… Usually pretty calm wind wise. And it’s not so cold that you can’t row.

Like we don’t really have snow or anything yet. The lake here does freeze. So my teammates that aren’t invited to the U S rowing camps will go down South to do their winter training, probably either in like Georgia or Florida. Okay. So

[00:40:43] Alison: we got off track from Tokyo. what was the. The racing, like for you,

[00:40:47] Kristi Wagner: it was a really great experience. We came in fifth, which is both like awesome and sad, not sad. That’s a bad word. I was a little disappointing because we were aiming to metal and I don’t think that we were like a metal shoe in, but I think if we had had.

A really good race on that day. It could have been a reality. So that was hard and it’s like such a expectancy in this country that if you go to the Olympics, you medal, like it’s literally what everyone asks me. So I think that. Not that, you know, external pressures should be why you do something, but I think that was just hard coming back because it felt like I had achieved this really big goal of going to the Olympics and making the final and, you know, whatever, but that was hard to like work through, but overall, like.

We did have really good racing. I felt really lucky. I had a really, I was really close. I’m still close to the woman that I rode in the Olympics with. She’s retired now from rowing, but that [00:42:00] was just like a really positive experience. So to get to race with her and have all of that was, I have.

Overall fond memories. What’s

[00:42:10] Jill: up with the

[00:42:10] Kristi Wagner: Romanians? They’re very good. Yeah. The Romanians are very good. And they’re so nice. Like, gosh. I’d hope they’d be mean. Um, no, they’re really incredible. And they… I’ve from all accounts, I’ve heard are going to be racing in two events in Paris. but we’re coming for them.

We got a lot closer this year, so yeah, it’s, I think it’s hard to have, like be racing in an event with someone that has, that is such a standout like them in the women’s double right now. But at the same time, like they are raising the standard of this boat class. And I think it’s really cool to be a part of that.

Every boat is getting faster and getting closer to the world record. And that’s just really cool to be a part of. And I feel like we’re helping push the ceiling up. So, But yeah, they’re great competitors.

[00:43:07] Alison: When a sport improves in that way, in terms of like the, the standard is changing.

What does that mean for you? As a competitor, in terms of how your approach is, how you’re training, because it’s not just, okay, I have to get better. It’s everyone is getting better. What’s changing?

[00:43:26] Kristi Wagner: I think, I mean, it’s a good question. It’s just that people are constantly pushing boundaries of sports. I mean, we’re seeing it in every sport, right? And I think you could either find it scary or you could find it really inspiring. it’s like in in mean girls, when they’re like, get in the car, we’re going shopping.

Like you either get in the car, you don’t get in the car, right? Like it’s kind of. Either you recognize that this is the new standard and this is what I need to be doing to be competitive or [00:44:00] you don’t. And it’s a huge accomplishment to make a world championship team or make an Olympic team and compete.

And it’s another level to be trying to win the races you’re in and that. Is my new, is my goal now and not that it wasn’t before, but now that’s like kind of the focus that we have. And so you can’t be afraid of going the world record or going faster than the world record. Like that’s what it’s going to take to win.

So you just have to do it. Is

[00:44:34] Alison: that more mental or physical?

[00:44:37] Kristi Wagner: I think it’s both. I think it’s hard. Maybe not hard for other people. It’s hard for me to see myself as like. One of the best people in the world at what I do. Like I do not look in the mirror and see that they feel a bit of imposter syndrome, but at the same time, I’m like looking at the, like someone like the Romanians and I’m like, well, they’re, they’re no different than me.

Like I can do that, you know? And I think that’s the really cool thing about sports in general. Like that’s what sports have given me my whole life. Like the confidence to grow and build and to. Not think that somebody else is better than me. Like. if you see it, you can do it. I see other people, okay, I can do that.

even if it’s delusion at first, if you work hard enough, you should be able to do it eventually.

[00:45:24] Jill: Does your podcast help with that? Like working through some of these issues, you know, you’re talking them out on the

[00:45:31] Kristi Wagner: show in a way. The podcast has been really interesting for me. before the podcast was not.

Talkative about rowing. I mean, I would talk about rowing to my teammates, but I feel like with my family or my friends, I just didn’t think people found it very interesting. because it’s not like I’m a pro I am a professional athlete, but I’m also not a professional athlete. Rowing is not really.

It’s not like I’m an NFL player, you know? So I think in some ways I was sort [00:46:00] of embarrassed that I’m still rowing. and I’m like, people don’t care. You know, they have jobs and children and husbands and wives, you know, like they have real things to talk about and this is just a sport, but I think I realized that people are interested.

And the other thing is that this is such a great sport and I, a lot of people don’t know about it in our country or in the world and. If I can just introduce it to a few people, that’s a win for me. Or if I can inspire a few people to like, I was not an amazing athlete growing up or, in high school or even college, like I was not the best person on my college team.

And if I can just inspire other people to. chase their dream. I’m not really answering the question right now, did, but it does, it does answer it.

[00:46:53] Jill: When do you have to work

[00:46:54] Kristi Wagner: on your qualifications? So we will start our U. S. rowing camps in early 2024, and I think all of the boats will be named by mid March. So it’s just a series of like domestic races, and then internal camps, and then they’ll name the boats.

So. A lot of hard work ahead. Exactly. We will be cheering for you. Thank you.

[00:47:19] Jill: Thank you so much, Kristi. You can follow Kristi on Instagram. She is at Kristi number one. We’ll have a link to that in the show notes We’ll also have a link to her podcast the other three years calm.

It’s a really good show I really enjoy listening to her stories and hearing her perspective about what it’s like to maintain a competitive

[00:47:37] Alison: It’s, it’s hard to keep the focus. It’s hard to keep the physical peak up because you’ve got that, , for them, it’s, a few days, you know, it’s over several days, but it’s a few days out of your whole life.

And yet you’re spending every moment preparing for it. It’s

[00:47:55] Jill: hard. also we have spent. Many days preparing [00:48:00] for a short moment called our Kickstarter. we are having a Kickstarter fundraiser to help us cover the cost to go to Paris. As you know, we do have media accreditations for Paris 2024. That is just one part of the program. There are a lot of expenses that go into that because we do not get free accommodation.

We do not get free travel. we need to be able to fundraise to help cover those costs. they are pretty extensive. If you want to go back and listen to our Beijing coverage or the follow up from Beijing on how much that costs, Paris might be a little bit cheaper, but it also might not be a little bit cheaper.

we will see, but, we It also did not get paid for the work that we put into our Bayesian coverage. And this year we are hoping to be able to fundraise enough to be able to pay for some extra help and getting the podcast out. we’ll have more details on that in the show notes, but look for keep the flame alive on kickstarter.

com starting October 27th. It goes through December 9th, but we would love to see you join us as soon as possible.

Seoul 1988 History Moment

[00:49:06] Jill: That sound means it is time for our history moment. All year long, we’ve been looking at the Seoul 1988 games as it is the 35th anniversary of those games. Your turn for a story, Alison. What do you got? I got Rowan.

[00:49:23] Alison: Very nice. There were some fun things about the rowing competition at Seoul. So it was competed on a man made course, the Misari Regatta near the Han River, which had been built for the 1986 Asian Games, another piece of the Asian Games that was reused.

A general consensus was that the course design was skillful. And included the latest technology. So people really liked this rowing course. 38 nations competed, including the one and only appearance in rowing by Kuwait. Oh, yeah. Who competed in men’s single [00:50:00] skulls. Going back to our conversation from last week, Australia decided to send no women rowers because they determined that no teams were of Olympic caliber.

That has not happened since. Though, some things I read about Australian rowing was that decision really changed how women rowers were treated in Australia, that it led to a lot of money and a lot of development programs being implemented so that they would never have this embarrassment again. But rowers.

Two of the greatest Olympians who you may not have heard of. Certainly most Americans have not heard of competed in the rowing competition at Seoul. First one was Great Britain’s Stephen Redgrave. Uh, he won the second of his five gold medals, which ran between 84 and 2000. And the interesting, the interesting thing about Redgrave was he changed events.

Sometimes it was the Cox pairs, sometimes it was the Coxless. Pairs and sometimes it was the force. So depending on where he was specializing, he also won a second medal in Seoul, a bronze in Coxed Pairs. So somebody that we know Manu, listener Manu is going to know very well. Karppinen of Finland won the gold medal in men’s single skulls in 76, 80, and 84.

He finished seventh in Seoul and he continued to row through 1992 and finished 10th in Barcelona. And he is one of two people who have won three consecutive gold medals in men’s single skulls.


[00:51:41] Alison: Welcome to Shookflastan. Now

[00:51:50] Jill: is the time of the show where we check in with our team, Keep the Flame Alive. These are past guests and listeners of the show who make up our citizenship of our very own country, [00:52:00] Shookflastan. It is the Pan American Games going on right now. So we have a ton of results because a ton of Shookflastanis are there.

[00:52:07] Alison: Madeline Gorman Shore won gold in Taekwondo. And Tim Sherry finished 10th in 10 meter air rifle.

[00:52:16] Jill: Still to compete will be Sonny Choi in Breaking, Karateka, Tom Scott, Erin Jackson in Roller Sports, uh, Speed Skating, and, uh, Stephanie Roble, Maggie Shea in Sailing, Jordan Gray in Heptathlon, and Deanna Price in Hammer Throw.

, speaking of Erin Jackson, because I’ve been watching Special Forces on Fox, A, If you have watched this, I would love to talk with you on the Facebook group because, , this season, it’s like eight days long. The actual filming and the actual period of training that they go through is about eight days, they say.

And we’ve gotten to day four and half the people have dropped out so far. So we have a very small group left, , poor Erin was told to lead a small team. , Erin’s a internally driven person and very quiet. So, , she had a really tough time with that, I have to say, but she’s getting more camera time.

Now that more and more people have dropped out, so that’s good. , tom Scott has also been competing at the World Karate Championships, and he won his first three matches before being eliminated.

[00:53:26] Alison: Archery official, and not my cousin, Hannah Brown, has been selected as a technical official for Paris 2024.

[00:53:34] Jill: The dulcet tones of Jason Bryant have been named the voice of St. Cloud State Wrestling.

[00:53:39] Alison: Katie Moon has been nominated for the USA Track and Field Jackie Joyner Kersee Athlete of the Year Award and the 2023 World Championships Field Performer Award. There is a fan voting element to this, so we’ll have a link to that in the show notes.

Be sure to vote for Katie.

Paris 2024 Update

[00:53:57] Jill: [00:54:00] So there’s been another raid on the headquarters of the Paris 2024 organizing committee on Wednesday, October 18th. Investigators also searched the offices of management firms working with the organizers as part of a larger ongoing corruption the

organizing committee says it is fully complied with investigators. Quote, as it has always done and quote, I, I imagine we’re going to see a lot more. Of these raids, just, I don’t know either way, you know, these are allegations, so I don’t know if they are. Being corrupt or not, but, , it’s never fun to get that news.

[00:54:46] Alison: It’s frustrating.

[00:54:47] Jill: , this is exciting news for the first time. Great Britain will allow the general public into the team GB hospitality house at a pavilion day. Armanoville limited tickets will go on sale in November and they start at 150 pounds. Wow.

[00:55:04] Alison: Well, it’s limited because you will get to interact with the athletes.

So I think they want to keep the crowd small, but Yeah, 150 is no joke.

[00:55:14] Jill: And I think tickets may be hard to come by because more tickets to Olympic events have been sold in Britain than any other country outside of France. You

[00:55:24] Alison: know, I have been listening to Anything But Footy and I am going to put a plug in for them because they’ve been having a lot of fun with Britain’s kind of thinking of Paris as a home games because it’s so easy for them to get there.

Interesting. That there is going to be a significant British contingent. So this did not surprise me when I came across this, that they’ve sold more tickets in Britain than any place else, which

[00:55:50] Jill: other than France, cause. Yes, it is easy to get there from Britain, but you would also think that it is easy to get to Paris from Belgium and Germany.

You just hop on a [00:56:00] train.

[00:56:00] Alison: Yes, but different. I think there’s so much back and forth between France and Great Britain that psychologically feels connected. Okay. Like, oh, I’m just going to shoot over to Paris for the weekend or, oh, I’m, I’m going to go down to the coast. So I think that Channel Avenue.

is also psychological.

[00:56:22] Jill: Interesting. Well, it will be exciting because we know that they will be, , boisterous, I guess would be exciting , and happy to cheer on their country. So I’m looking forward to seeing many Brits in Paris. Also routes for the Paralympic marathons and road cycling events have been revealed.

The marathon will start in Saint Saint Denis. It will work its way down to the Champs Élysées. And, and at the Esplanade in Valdez, the road cycling will start in Finnish in Kli Su Bois.

[00:56:52] Alison: Yeah, the road cycling seems to go around the city. It’s sort of doing almost a ring road, course, whereas the marathon is going right through the middle.

So this should be kind of fun.

[00:57:07] Jill: Interesting. So that will be exciting. I’m looking forward to seeing Marcel Hoog. The

[00:57:12] Alison: silver bullet! You’ll be able to easily spot him. I hope he’s still wearing that silver helmet of his.

[00:57:19] Jill: Well, that will do it for this week. Let us know what you think of pairs rowing.

[00:57:24] Alison: You can connect with us on X and Instagram at flame alive pod, email us at flame alive pod at gmail.

com call or text us at 2 0 8 3 5 That’s 2 0 8 flame it. Be sure to join the keep the flame alive podcast group on Facebook and don’t forget to get our weekly newsletter filled with other fun stories about this week’s episode. Sign up for that at flame alive pod. com.

[00:57:56] Jill: And don’t forget that our Kickstarter starts on Friday, [00:58:00] October 27th, so please, if you appreciate the work that we put in for this show, please consider supporting the Kickstarter.

So until next time, thank you so much for listening, and don’t forget, keep the flame alive.