A Big Day Completed – A Bigger Day to Come in Switzerland

by Ed Moran, | Apr 19, 2016
Vermont-based Craftsbury Sculling Center's Ben Davison, Benn Dann, John Graves and Peter Graves won the men’s quadruple sculls final at the 2016 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Team Trials – Rowing. It was step one in the process of making it to the team that will race at the Olympic Games this summer.


  • 2016 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Team Trials race schedule and real-time results
  • Follow race results on @USRowing Twitter, Facebook and Instagram with #RioTrials2016 and #RowToRio
  • No live streaming is available for this event; NBCSN will broadcast trials highlights on May 8 at 5 p.m. EST

– When today's race ended, John and Peter Graves sat with their legs dangling out of the boat and into the water on the racecourse at Nathan Benderson Park in Sarasota, Fla.

johnandpeterAfter a few minutes, John reached his hand back behind him towards his older brother. Peter took it, and they exchanged a quiet handshake. In front of them, Ben Dann (Pound Ridge, N.Y.) also cooled his feet in the water while Ben Davison (Inverness, Fla.), sat and looked out of the back of the boat towards the small crowd cheering on the shore.

Nothing was said between the four on the water. Nothing was really needed, especially between the brothers. The four Vermont-based Craftsbury Sculling Center athletes had just won the men’s quadruple sculls final at the 2016 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Team Trials – Rowing. It was step one in the process of making it to the team that will race at the Olympic Games this summer.

“It was just a firm squeeze,” Peter said of the handshake. “I know, deep down, we are all rowing for each other. This was just the beginning. It was just a job well done.”

For all of them, it was a big moment in their careers, bigger than they were letting on as they sat and cooled down on the finish line.

Dann and John Graves (Cincinnati, Ohio) have been working through their first full Olympic cycle, with both good and not-so-good results under their belts. Peter Graves (Cincinnati, Ohio) has been at it through two cycles, and rowed in the quad at the 2012 Olympic Games, where his boat was eliminated early.

nextThen there's nineteen-year-old Davison, who is only two years from the junior team and his high school prom. “It’s been a big shock just to think that two years ago, I was hoping to make the junior team. I’ve raced here at Benderson since I was 12 and 13, and it was quite cool to sit there this morning at the start line and remember back to the days when I used to come here in my freshman year of high school.”

With the win Tuesday morning, Davison, Dann and the Graves brothers earned the right to represent the U.S. at the Final Olympic Qualification Regatta next month in Lucerne, Switzerland, May 22-25 and won the $3,500 sponsor-donated cash award that comes with the win and goes toward their future training.

There, they will go to the line again, and with a top-two finish, they can earn a place on the U.S. Olympic team.

“It’s great to have this race under our belts,” said Dann. "This is just the first race of the races to come this year. It’s really important, but it’s the qualification regatta that really matters.”

But that is weeks and many practices away. Today, the business at hand was to win trials and give themselves the chance to race in Lucerne. And they did.

On a perfect, sun-drenched and nearly windless morning, Craftsbury took the lead from the start and built on it over the 2,000-meter course, crossing first in 6:05.09. California Rowing Club was second in 6:09.94. Community Rowing Inc., finished third in 6:33.46.

start“In our starts, at least in our international racing, we know that in the quad, it’s a drag race off the line. Any races where we’ve been down off the start generally have been bad,” said John Graves. “So that’s been a focus all year - making sure that no matter what pace we’re going to be going the rest of the piece, we need to be getting off the line fairly quickly.”

The quad event was the first in a week-long regatta featuring racing in nine Olympic and Paralympic boat classes. In six of the events – the women’s single, women’s double sculls, lightweight men’s and women’s double sculls and men’s and women’s arms and shoulder single sculls – the boat classes were previously qualified during racing at the 2015 World Rowing Championships and the winning athletes will be named to the Olympic or Paralympic team, pending approval from the United States Olympic Committee.

The quad, the men’s single sculls and men’s double sculls will have to qualify for Rio in Lucerne. That will not be easy, and all four Craftsbury scullers know it.

Peter Graves calls it “the regatta of death."

"I’ve guess I’ve only heard stories (about Lucerne),” he said. “But it’s tough. Everybody is going there to make the Olympic team. So, obviously, dreams come true there, which is great. But for the majority of people, that doesn’t happen.

“There’s no bronze medal there, and that’s something we’ve been thinking about. You have to win or place second and anything less than that is not acceptable. So, while it’s just another race, that’s been our focus and it will continue to be so.”

signsWith their events behind them, the Craftsbury crew will head back to Vermont and begin preparing for Lucerne. For the rest of the field scheduled to race here, competition picks up Thursday and will conclude Sunday with finals.

“Each guy is going to take a few days to clear the head and get back to center so we can start the next push,” John Graves said. “The weeks leading up to Lucerne are going to be super important.

“We’re all feeling healthy and feeling mentally ready. Probably the most important thing is to prepare to go faster than we have ever gone.”

Click here for complete regatta information and schedule. To see photos of the race and scene at Nathan Benderson Park, click here.

Follow racing real-time on HereNow, and be a part of the conversation on USRowing's Twitter, Facebook and Instagram with #RioTrials2016 and #RowToRio.

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