Abusow dominates in Philadelphia

Queen’s rower wins the largest collegiate regatta in North America

Abusow won the women’s single Dad Vail Regatta in Philadelphia earlier this month.
Abusow won the women’s single Dad Vail Regatta in Philadelphia earlier this month.
Supplied by Danielle Abusow

After a year of disappointment and bad luck, Queen’s solo heavyweight rower Danielle Abusow needed a reminder of how far she had come.

Just last October at the Canadian University Rowing Championships she had lost her oar under her boat in the time trials, causing her to finish in last place.

Now, as she prepared for the final race of the Dad Vail Regatta in Philadelphia on May 14, Abusow wrote “Earned Not Given” on her left hand to keep herself focused all the way through.

Even though she was 10 seconds faster than anyone else in the qualifying races, Abusow knew that anything can happen in one race.

“As soon as you think you have it before it’s over, someone is probably going to come up from behind you to beat you which it happens occasionally.”

For the 2,000 meter final, Abusow battled through windy conditions, focusing only on the writing on her left hand. 

While Abusow knew she would have to be more technical in her stroke to keep her boat from tipping, she knew the others were in the same situation. 

“You pretty much have to stay calm,” said Abusow. “[Rowing] is a very big mental game, so you can be matched pretty evenly on a physical level as someone, but it takes a mental aspect to get to the next level.” 

Abusow finished first by a 12 second advantage on her closest competitor.

Abusow believes that she pulled away from the pack at the 500 meter mark. With the water becoming clear for only a short period of time, Abusow pushed hard and used that momentum to propel herself to a 12-second victory. 

It had taken a lot of work during the off-season to get to this point, she said, looking back.

Following her disappointment in October 2015 at the Canadian Championships, Abusow had to fight through a lingering back issue and the difficult weather situation in Kingston for on-water training — only allowing her to get on the water 10 times in the month leading up to the race — to get into shape leading up to the Dad Vail Regatta.

To take a fresh approach, Abusow decided to change her usual off-season routine and in November teamed up with CrossFit Queen Street to work on her core strength. 

While she saw improvements physically, Abusow saw the biggest change come to how she approached races.

“Before I would try to go as hard as I could in a race without a lot of strategy,” said Abusow. “I found that when I did the crossfit workout you needed a plan to do the workout, so I learned how to pace myself better and think more when I’m racing.”

For the entirety of her university career, Abusow raced as a lightweight rower. In this category, rowers must be under 130 pounds and weigh in at races. Citing it as being “mentally and physically taxing”, Abusow decided to make the shift to heavyweight rowing, where there are no restrictions. 

In this open category, Abusow is often the shortest competitor. While the average rower is anywhere from 5’10 to 6 feet, this former lightweight rower is only 5’6. Despite the significant disadvantage in height, Abusow knew nothing would stop her from the change.

“The short people kind of get pushed away [from heavyweight rowing], but I’m the type of person who keeps going.”

“People always see [height] as an issue, but I look at it as I’m short and I’m going to try anyways.”

Going into her fifth year, Abusow looks to gain momentum from this win. Next for her is the Ontario Regatta in June. 

She will finish her summer season with the Canadian Henley Regatta in the beginning of August.

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