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2024 US Rowing Olympic Team Trials hit Benderson Park this week

Kara Kohler celebrates at Nathan Benderson Park after she wins the U.S. Olympic Trials’ women’s single sculls competition on Feb. 26, 2021.
Kara Kohler celebrates at Nathan Benderson Park after she wins the U.S. Olympic Trials’ women’s single sculls competition on Feb. 26, 2021.
Photo by Jay Heater
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The United States' top rowers have been training for years to reach the 2024 Paris Olympics. 

This week, a handful of them will find out whether their hard work will pay off, or be for nothing. 

The 2024 U.S. Rowing Olympic and Paralympic Team Trials will be held Thursday through Sunday at Nathan Benderson Park, with racing tentatively scheduled to begin at 8 a.m. each day. More than 100 athletes in 73 boats are scheduled to race in the trials. 

At a press conference Wednesday morning at the park's finish tower, Nathan Benderson Park Conservancy COO Bruce Patneaude, Sarasota County Commissioner Ron Cutsinger and members of the U.S. rowing program ushered in the event, with all involved excited for what the event means for the sport and for the area. 

"We're proud of being the host of this important event," Cutsinger said. "It highlights what a wonderful facility this is. We believe Benderson is the finest rowing venue in North America — perhaps the world." 

USRowing Chief High Performance Officer Josy Verdonkschot was also complimentary of the Benderson facilities, though he stopped short of calling the park the best rowing venue in the world. Not for any fault of the park itself, but because Florida, on days like Wednesday, can get windy, forcing rowers off the water and generally making things more difficult. It's the only thing keeping the park from the level of a place like Lake Bled in Slovenia, which is surrounded by mountains that cut down on wind. From a facilities and water standpoint, Benderson is as good as anywhere else, Verdonkschot said, even surpassing the facilities the team will see in Paris this summer.  

Verdonkschot said he has a good idea of who will walk away from the trials as winners based on the work the rowers have been doing in the months and years prior. Succeeding in rowing requires a combination of strength and stamina, Verdonkschot said. At the Olympic level, rowers average two training sessions a day, and sometimes complete three, with an occasional day off. It comes out to 12-16 sessions per week, with those sessions oscillating between rowing a set number of miles and working on their strength, particularly in their core. The results of that work build over time, Verdonkschot said. 

Still, there will be events, like the men's and women's pairs, where Verdonkschot has no idea who will walk away victorious, as the competitors are closely matched. That's where the real fun lies as a spectator, he said. 

"The difference between fulfilling your dream and not can be the snap of your fingers, or two-tenths of a second," Verdonkschot said. "(You're) not just seeing that emotion, but feeling that emotion. It makes it spectacular to watch." 

Rowers will compete in 11 events throughout the trials, though only the results of the men's pair, the women's single scull and the women's pair finals will send the winners directly to Paris. That is because the United States has prequalified boats in those events, with the only thing left to determine being who sits in those boats' seats. 

US rower Teal Cohen will compete in the women's quad at the Olympic Team Trials this week at Nathan Benderson Park.
Photo by Ryan Kohn

For the other events, like the women's quad, the trial winners will still represent the U.S, but at a second-chance qualifying event held in Lucerne, Switzerland, in May, as the U.S. did not pre-qualify in those events. But as women's quad rower Teal Cohen said, the trials for those events will be no less dramatic. In terms of chances to represent the United States internationally, it is now or never. 

"There are definitely nerves," Cohen said. "If you don't win, it's over. But I think we have good pieces and have had good training in our boat. We've done a lot of race simulation and we feel confident."

Cohen said everyone at Benderson has been welcoming, and getting to train with everyone on the team, regardless of gender or event, has been fun and added a level of camaraderie that rowers don't always have. It has allowed the team's rowers to push each other every day, raising the overall level of the team, Cohen said. 

"I hope people come and watch," Cohen said. "There's going to be some great racing." 

The trials are free for spectators to attend. They will also be available to stream on Peacock, and on Saturday and Sunday. Heat sheets and results will be available on For more information, visit or



Ryan Kohn

Ryan Kohn is the sports editor for Sarasota and East County and a Missouri School of Journalism graduate. He was born and raised in Olney, Maryland. His biggest inspirations are Wright Thompson and Alex Ovechkin. His strongest belief is that mint chip ice cream is unbeatable.

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