Rockford woman's athlete insight from own Olympic experience - – Rockford’s News Leader

Rockford woman's athlete insight from own Olympic experience

Susan Urbas Susan Urbas
Rockford Junior Rowing Club Rockford Junior Rowing Club
YMCA Boat House YMCA Boat House
Olympic men's eight race. Olympic men's eight race.
German team celebrates after men's eight gold. German team celebrates after men's eight gold.

We can all imagine the amount of work that goes into becoming an Olympic athlete, but one Rockford area woman knows what it takes to get there. That's because Susan Urban is a former member of the U.S. Olympic Rowing Committee and still involved in the sport in Rockford.

Urbas fell into the Olympic end of rowing almost by accident after accepting a position as head of the National Woman's Rowing Association in the 1980s.

"That eventually merged with a men's organization to become U.S. Rowing. So I was also on the board of U.S. Rowing and I was also the chair of the U.S. Olympic Rowing Committee which was the committee that managed the selection of athletes to the team at that time," says Urbas.

Urbas is no longer part of the Olympic Committee but still rows as a member of Rockford's Rowing Club. She says rowing isn't just about getting on the water there is a lot of strategy to the sport.

"They watch rowing tapes just like football. They know their opposition and what their tendencies are. For instance, whether they are going to do a fast start or whether they are going to be a team that is going to sprint in the last 500," says Urbas.

She isn't the only member of Rockford's Rowing Club with impressive credentials. Mark Maffei is also a U.S. Rowing referee something that requires regular testing and training to maintain.

"In general rowers are sort of fanatical about their sport to begin with. We pay attention all the time to what's going on with the rowers. We don't necessarily know particular rowers but we are always interested in knowing what's going on, what the times are that sort of thing," says Maffei.

Both of them say rowers have to be top athletes but when it comes to choosing the best Urbas says the difference between being a rower and Olympian is having the ability to push yourself beyond your limits.

"In rowing the common thing that holds us all together when you are in a race by the time you reach the 1500 meter which is 3 quarters of the race, you've exhausted yourself. That last 500 meters in all heart and fumes. So its often the place that separates the weak from the champ, what you do in the last 500 meters will bring it home over the line," says Urbas.

To give you an idea of just how physically demanding rowing can be. U.S. Rowing says competing in the 2-thousand meter, which is how far most Olympians race, is the equivalent of play two basketball games, back to back.

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