Devery Karz will row in Rio Olympics
Since qualifying her lightweight doubles boat for the 2016 Rio Olympics in September 2015, Park City native Devery Karz has been working hard to ensure she would be one of the two rowers in that boat when the Games begin in August.
On Sunday in Sarasota, Florida, Karz and new teammate Kate Bertko punched their tickets to Rio, winning the final race of last weekend’s U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Team Trials by nearly 12 seconds over the second-place boat.
For Karz, who began rowing when she walked on to the Oregon State University rowing team in 2007, qualifying for the Olympics was the realization of a years-long dream.
"I’ve been doing this for a pretty long time and have had to put everything else on the side so I can do this," she said. "You have to give up everything. It’s a choice you make, but you give up most other things so you can pursue this. It takes 100 percent of your time."
Karz and then-teammate Michelle Sechser qualified their boat for the Olympics in September by placing 11th at the 2015 World Rowing Championships in Lac Aiguebelette, France. Since then, she’d been training with the Vesper Boat Club and Coach John Parker in Philadelphia in preparation for last week’s races. She said the past few months have been the hardest she’s ever worked.
"Winter training was brutal," she said. "It was a really, really tough period. There were five of us and we were all very fast women. Each day was a race to get yourself to the [Olympic] boat. Each day, you had to come back and race again. Even if it was a light day, it was who could light row the best. Those were four of the hardest months of training I’ve done because of the mental side of it as well."
Karz and Sechser qualified their boat by .2 seconds in September. Karz and Bertko clinched Olympic berths by a much more comfortable margin, but Karz said she didn’t let herself relax until the race was over.
"I probably didn’t fully acknowledge it until we crossed the finish line," she said. "Anything can happen. Someone could have had a phenomenal sprint. In the last 250 [meters], though, I was like, ‘This is going to happen!’ [After finishing] I was just kind of dumbfounded, honestly. I knew we were capable of winning, but it doesn’t always sink in right after. You laugh, cry and sit there stunned. It’s a mixture of emotions."
Though Karz and Bertko will make up the U.S. lightweight women’s doubles team in Rio, Karz said she’s thankful for everyone she’s rowed with and against in her career.
"Kate Bertko is an extraordinary athlete," she said. "It just worked out that we were the athletes [to make the Olympics]. Just the way the selection happened, the combination happened to be Kate and myself. I have an immense amount of respect for everyone I’ve rowed with."
Karz has qualified for the Olympics, but there’s not much time to rest in the months leading up to the Rio Games.
"I had four days off, it was huge — best four days ever!" she joked.
Now that her half-week of rest is over, Karz said she’s anxious to get back in her boat and work to ensure she has the best performance in Rio she possibly can. She’ll row at the World Cup event in Lucerne, Switzerland, at the end of May to test herself against international competition again.
"I’m excited to get back to training and back to the World Cup," she said. "I’m excited to get back to Philadelphia [to train] and get back in the water."
Questions loom about the safety of the water in Rio and the outbreak of the Zika virus, but Karz said she’s not stressing out about that.
"Everything I’ve heard about the water in Rio is what the general public has heard about it," she said. "There’s bad water everywhere in the world and diseases you can get anywhere — it’s important to take care of yourself and do what you can to prevent [illness]."
She said she and Bertko are more worried about what they can do to continue to climb in the international rankings and putting themselves in position to land a podium spot in August.
"Any athlete who is going to Rio would like to medal," she said. "We haven’t sat down and discussed what we want to get out of the World Cup [in May] and what our goals are for Rio yet, though."
The 2016 Rio Olympics begin on Aug. 5 and end on Aug. 21. The women’s lightweight doubles final is scheduled for Friday, Aug. 12.
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