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MICHELLE SECHSER IS AN OLYMPIAN, WORLD CHAMPION AND HAS BEEN A NATIONAL ROWING TEAM REPRESENTATIVE FOR UNITED STATES SINCE 2011.
WHAT MADE YOU CHOOSE YOUR SPORT?
Michelle began rowing at age 14 for Capital Crew in Folsom, CA after seeing how much her older sister was enjoying crew after her first season. My older sister was the first in our family to give rowing a try, so I had spent a lot of weekends on the shores of Lake Natoma watching her regattas. I loved watching the excitement of the races; coxswains yelling, coaches cheering, and these large boats sprinting toward the finish line. All of my previous hobbies had been performative: ballet, gymnastics, and orchestra. I had never really done a side-by-side racing sport and felt really drawn to it. I don't remember my first practice but I certainly remember my first race. Our coach had prepared us well (or as well as you can prepare a high school novice 8+) and I felt confident and strong sitting on the start line, excited to beat our competitors. It was the first time I'd ever felt that way and I knew I wanted more of it. My love for our beautiful sport has grown and evolved so much over the last 20 years. It somehow gives me both my biggest adrenaline-filled highs and my most quiet-minded peaceful flows. The dichotomy of those two experiences that rowing gives me is what makes it so beautiful
WHAT’S BEEN YOUR MOST MEMORABLE PERFORMANCE, AND WHY?
That race is tied with the 2021 Trials I with Molly in Sarasota when she lost control of her oar off the start. We raged-built the boat right back up to speed and she handled it like a champ. It could have ended our entire Olympic dream in one millisecond but it was perfectly saved in a way that is almost unbelievable unless you watch the video.
WHAT’S BEEN YOUR TOUGHEST CHALLENGE YOU’VE HAD TO FACE IN YOUR SPORT, AND WHAT DID IT TEACH YOU?
Every season brings its own tough challenges, whether that be my coach moving on, changing boat clubs, a poorly-timed injury, finding a doubles partner, or even something as massive as a global pandemic that postponed (and at the time potentially canceled) the Olympics. But all of these "plot twists" have taught the same important truth: that I am not in control of these outside events, but I am always in control of my attitude and reaction to them. Embracing this truth has made this entire journey so much more enjoyable and even fulfilling. The challenge isn't the up-and-downs themselves, the real challenge is keeping a positive mindset and believing in myself and my ability to find a way to my goals despite these things. Learning to stay focused on my attitude, my effort, and my path to the goal has been as big of a journey as learning to make boats go fast! Dwelling, sulking, or being angry and petty don't get me any closer to my goals and those things certainly don't contribute to boat speed. When you realize this you learn to let go of the tough challenges and failures much quicker, and then you can get right back to chasing your goals.
WHAT MOTIVATES YOU? WHAT KEEPS YOU GETTING UP EVERY MORNING?
Every morning is a little bit different. Some mornings it's the peaceful flow of the stroke cycle and the boat through the water that calls to me. The world can be so noisy and busy but when I step into the boat my mind is finally quiet, it turns off and I can just *feel*. Other mornings, it is much more intense. Visualizations of sitting on the startline or standing on the podium fill me with excitement and energy to go practice, practice, practice until I know I am ready to go chase my goals. Some mornings the fatigue and ache is hard to ignore when I am getting up in the morning. On those days, it's my teammates with their humor, energy, and discipline that encourages me to show up at the boathouse ready to execute a great practice. Never underestimate the power of enduring and suffering as a group!
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR YOUNGER ATHLETES ENTERING THE SPORT ASPIRING GREATNESS ON THE WORLD STAGE?
Believe in yourself and the power of hard work. I wish when I was younger I had believed in myself more and not been afraid to dream big and really believe that I could achieve hard goals. It's helped to have a lot of encouraging people along the way. It's not an easy thing to do when you're young and unsure of yourself. If you're willing to put in the hard, focused work that it will take to get there, don't be afraid to set big goals and become a version of yourself that would blow your current self out of the water. And be a good teammate. This will be the most important foundation you can build your rowing career on. Learn how to help raise up your teammates in the boat and help them be the best version of themselves. Support them, empower them, call them out when they need it. If you do this you're going to enjoy the journey along the way a lot more, and it will help make the boat you're in go faster.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO OUTSIDE OF YOUR SPORT? INTERESTS? CAREER?
When I'm not in racing season I love cycling and racing bikes. My ideal recovery Sunday would be a hard, hilly bike ride with friends that ends with good coffee or a cookout. Like so may other lightweight rowers, we tend to have a fun time sending it on hilly bike rides and appreciate being in a sport where we aren't limited by our small statures. My favorite place to be when we're not rowing the boat is in the water or on another boat: water-skiing, swimming, and hanging out at the lake. I currently work in finance for Broadridge Financial Solutions.