Keane Johnson shares his story from the World University Games

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July 24, 2013 by conteconfidential

Former Boston College rowing captain Keane Johnson represented the United States at the 2013 World University Games July 6-8 in Kazan, Russia. He shared his story, from the airport drama to the racing and everything in between, with Conte Confidential.

We actually had a little bit of trouble getting there. First, we went down to Princeton, N.J. for Elite Nationals. The crews we raced were pretty quick so we came in last, but it was a great experience. After that, we stayed in Princeton to train before driving up to New York Monday morning [before the event] to get our flight to Russia.

Our coaches hadn’t followed us to Princeton because they had other coaching obligations over the weekend so they were going to meet us in New York. But there was a really bad thunderstorm that day so their flight got cancelled. They also had our visas and we couldn’t leave without them so we ended up missing our flight to Russia. We had to scramble to get on a flight the next day. There was a little uncertainty whether we would get that flight or not but everything ended up working out.

We got to Kazan via Moscow. The airport was filled with student volunteers. Kazan is a lot like Boston; there are a lot of colleges and students in the area. Everywhere from the airport to the competition sites was filled with student volunteers.

KeaneJohnsonSigns

(photo credit: Keane Johnson)

The village was a lot like the Olympic Village. There were a lot of dorms and almost every country had its own dorm. We were really close to the cafeteria, which was huge. It was the same caterer as the London Olympics so the food was really good.

Just walking around the village, you meet all these different athletes playing different sports for different countries. One of the cool ways that they promote meeting other athletes is each country supplies the athletes with pins. So we had USA pins and you go up and trade them with other athletes. The U.S. is in pretty high demand; everyone wants U.S. gear. So that was pretty helpful in trying to get pins. This is jumping ahead, but after our last race, everyone traded gear at the race course. There were some pretty lopsided trades. One of our guys traded USA shorts for a Poland uniform. It was an absolutely disastrous deal for the Polish rower.

KeaneJohnsonPins

(photo credit: Keane Johnson)

Our venue was about 15 minutes away from the village so we had to take a bus there. It was interesting because the bus just went to the rowing center. It was a good way to meet other rowers, and we became pretty friendly with the Norwegian team. They were pretty cool guys.

The actual racing was a lot of fun. The course was state of the art and the venue had just been built in the last couple of years. It was unclear how many boats had entered. For a time, we thought there were only six countries entered in our event, and that would have meant it would have been a straight final. But somehow the entries got screwed up so we got to race three times instead of once.

KeaneJohnsonBoat

(photo credit: Keane Johnson)

The first time was the heats. There were a heat of three and a heat of four, and we were in the heat of four. The winners of each heat went straight to the finals. The rest go to the repechage the following day. We came in last in our heat and second to last in the repechage but made it to the final. In the final, we came in last.

We found out a little later that most of the boats we were racing the guys were four or five years older than us. We were the youngest boat by far. Most of the guys we were racing also had previous experience rowing at World Championships or European Championships, and none of the guys in our boat had ever raced in an international regatta.

It was honestly disappointing because we all had hopes of bringing home some hardware. It sucked not winning a medal and coming in last. I don’t think any of us would hang our heads about the results. I was really pumped to be a part of the experience.

The best part was meeting the other guys in my boat. We were all kind of surprised by how well we got along. When you put a lot of guys who were best rowers in their program together, you’re mixing a lot of egos, a lot of guys who are used to being the best, who are used to other guys accommodating them. But I didn’t get that at all with the guys in our boat. We still talk to each other all the time even though racing has been over for awhile. It’s going to be fun looking towards the future because we’re all going to try to continue rowing at an elite level.

KeaneJohnsonTeam

Johnson (far right) and the U.S. men’s eight (photo credit: Boathouse Sports)

Even though I graduated college, I still want to keep rowing. I may take some time off, but probably not that much. I want to become proficient in sculling because I did sweep rowing in college. I may want to row on my own time and not be obligated to a team. I’m still looking at my options.

I’m still trying to wrap my head around having gone to the World University Games. I know in a couple months, or maybe in a year, I’ll finally be able to look back and realize what that experience was.

Interview by Jen Dobias

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One thought on “Keane Johnson shares his story from the World University Games

  1. […] Keane Johnson shares his story from the World University Games (Conte Confidential)Former Boston College rowing captain Keane Johnson represented the United States at the 2013 World University Games July 6-8 in Kazan, Russia. He shared his story, from the airport drama to the racing and everything in between, with Conte Confidential. […]

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