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Working vacation: Spokane rower one boat away from Olympics

‘Take it easy’ is easier said than done for world-class athlete

With the U.S. Olympic Trials six months off, two-time world champion rower Jamie Redman isn’t letting a holiday break in Spokane distract her from a six-year goal.

She’s working out just two times a day instead of four.

U.S. Women’s Rowing Team Coach Tom Terhaar gave his athletes a mixed message when they left the Princeton, N.J., training center last week.

“He told us to take it easy,” said Redman, 25, a graduate of Lewis and Clark High School and two-time NCAA rowing champion in an eight-oared boat at Yale. “He said he wanted us to recover from training injuries, do light weight lifting, cross-training and come back physically and mentally refreshed and ready to work.”

Then he reminded the athletes that the Romania teams don’t take a break for Christmas, the Canadians don’t break for Thanksgiving and the Australians don’t miss any training because it’s too cold during winter.

“I think he was subtly warning us he was really going to put the hammer down next week when we show up for winter training in San Diego.”

Redman says bring it on.

“After two years of training and challenges and proving ourselves on the U.S. Team, this is the first time we’ve been able to say, ‘Yes, we’re the group that’s gearing up for the Olympics,’ ” she said Monday.

“It can be tense.  Some of the women working out four times a day, six days a week are not going to make the team. We have about two dozen athletes competing for 17 positions.”

Redman said coming home is a welcome respite: “I love cross-training in the mountains and eating my mother’s cooking. It’s good to be around old friends who have normal lives and problems.”

The morning after flying into Spokane last week she was weight training at Snap Fitness. By noon, she’d packed her cross-country skis, borrowed an indoor rowing machine (ergometer) and retreated to the family’s condo at Mount Spokane with her parents, Scott and Robin.

She’s been devoting nearly two hours to the rowing machine each morning. Later she follows with cross-country skiing, a sport that whet her appetite for competition starting in middle school.

“The U.S. Women’s Team coach has taken us nordic skiing a couple of times over the years for a break in the routine,” Redman said.

“We went to Lake Placid in 2010. I was one of the few women rowers who’d been on a nordic ski team, so I always got picked first on the relay teams.

“Yes, any time you get these women together for very long, there’s going to be some sort of competition.

“You can tell why they’re world-class athletes. Even the ones who’d never cross-countried before, after a day or two, they were skating and racing and even doing jumps. Incredible.”

But the day after her Christmas skate-skiing session at Mount Spokane – her first time on skis in a year – even Redman found a few muscles neglected by four-times-a-day rowing workouts.

“I can feel it right here,” she said, patting her butt.

From Spokane she’ll fly to rejoin her teammates for three months of work at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif., near San Diego.

She’ll have to prove herself again in March in the selection regatta, the last chance most challengers have to make the Olympic Team.

“Then there’s one more test, the Olympic Trials at the end of June, just a few weeks before the Olympics,” she said. “There’s lots of training to do, lots of fitness to be gained in that time.

“Rowing is such a volume sport, the extra little bit we do in training means everything when it comes to being on top on race day.

“I think of it as storing money in the Body Bank account. I plan to cash it all in this summer.”

Her short-term goal is to avoid injury, such as rib fractures, an all-to-common injury among women rowers because of the forces their legs exert through their arms to the oars.

“A rib fracture means you’re automatically training on a bike for six weeks,” she said. “At this point, that would be tough luck, since it’s pretty hard to maintain rowing fitness while the other women are running, lifting, rowing and erging.”

Even a poorly timed cold could derail years of effort for Redman or any of the two dozen women competing for the U.S. Women’s Rowing Team that will compete at the Summer Games in July.

Her family still is reluctant to mention the O-word, even after Redman collected her second world championship gold medal last summer in Slovenia.

But at least one worldwide authority gave her thumbs up this week.

Under the tree on Christmas morning, Santa had left her a book by one of her favorite childhood authors to ponder – “Madeline in London.”

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