WORCESTER, Mass. – In 1985, Karin Constant found herself in a less than ideal situation. She was at her first FISA Masters Regatta in Toronto, Canada, and was limited to small boat races as the only American representative.
Hoping to expand her racing opportunities and prevent other female rowers from having the same limited experience, she came up with her own solution.
She started to facilitate the creation of composite crews for national and international competitions.
In 1992, Constant’s pickup crews first raced under the titles Masters International and Masters USA.
“Karin is a diehard and straight shooter,” said Phyl Soller. “She can be blunt but tried and true passion from the heart is what you get from her.”
Soller joined the group of American rowers administered by Constant in 2010.
Prior to that, Soller was one of Constant’s competitors, often intimidated by the respected masters rower. Before joining the Masters USA herself, she was in awe of crews rowing under that designation.
“When I saw the group she pulled together for FISA Masters Worlds at Mercer in 2006, I was amazed,” said Soller. “She had pulled together a boat including former Olympians, and I really wanted to be part of that group.”
Constant creates boat lineups from a group of rowers with whom she has developed a rapport over the years, friends of the core group and individuals who consistently perform well that she calls upon when in a pinch.
Members of FISA Masters, also known as Masters International, are female rowers from various parts of the world that compete at Fédération Internationale des Sociétés d'Aviron regulated Masters World Championships.
The US Masters rowers, many of whom are racing at the regatta this weekend, tend to stick to regattas in the United States.
Constant is well known amongst her peers for her knack of bringing together successful athletes from all across the globe.
She is also highly esteemed for her role in promoting women’s participation in the sport when women were not highly involved in athletics.
“She was the coach of St. Joe’s [Joseph’s University] women rowing when it first started,” said Karen Agersborg of Vesper Boat Club. “She has been a rower, coach and mentor.”
Many consider her the pioneer of female rowing at Vesper Boat Club in Philadelphia, Pa., and a crucial figure in guiding the sport to the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal, Canada.
“Everybody knows her and knows she puts together really good crews,” said Soller.
These days, Constant focuses predominantly on creating composite boats for the age categories E-H, which encompass women in their 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s.
She accommodates a few younger, middle-aged, women as well.
“A majority of the rowers [from Masters USA] are from Vesper. Most of us have known each other for years and date back to the 70s,” said Constant.
These long-term relationships play a significant role in the continued existence of both factions of rowing overseen by Constant.
“If I stop, it ends,” said Constant. “There were a few days this year I thought I’d quit.”
She spends a large amount of time planning for national and international masters races, as well as the maintenance of athlete biographies, photographs and basic information on two separate websites.
With nearly 110 people in roughly 65 crews competing at FISA Worlds and the USRowing Masters National Championships, she does her best to plan ahead and begins sending emails for boat preferences in February.
Her boatings are posted as early as April.
And when someone gets injured or fails to fulfill their obligation to the crew, she manages to pull it together nonetheless.
“In the [women’s lightweight G quadruple sculls,] there were two different people in that boat as of Thursday and she still put it together,” said Soller.
That boat won gold.
The opportunity for the women in her groups to pursue their passion helps Constant continue to put up with the frustration associated with the planning process.
“The girls bring a lot of joy,” said Constant. “The girls keep me going, because when I want to quit, I think about what I am going to tell them, what am I going to tell the Jonik twins who I’ve rowed with at Vesper.”
For the composite crewmembers rowing as one under the FISA/US Masters designation, her efforts are not unappreciated.
“We love her, and we appreciate what she does for women who don’t have clubs to compete with at this level,” said Marilyn Karl, a non-Vesper rower in her fourth year with US Masters.
For a complete race schedule, updates on the regatta and links to results (as available), visit http://www.usrowing.org/Events/MastersNationals.aspx.
Finals can be viewed live each day beginning Thursday, August 9, at http://www.ustream.tv/usrowing.
Press coverage of the event will be available at http://www.usrowing.org/Pressbox/Inteventcoverage/12MasterNationalsCoverage.aspx.
The 2012 USRowing Masters National Championships is the first of two masters’ championship regattas USRowing will host over the next two months. The first-ever USRowing Masters National Head Race Championship will be held September 16 on the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland, Ohio. Currently home to the Head of the Cuyahoga, the 4,800-meter course involves strategy, curves, and fun. In addition to five major river turns (including an S-bend), gorgeous views of the Cleveland skyline are situated throughout the course. To register, visit www.regattacentral.com.
USRowing is a nonprofit organization recognized by the United States Olympic Committee as the governing body for the sport of rowing in the United States. USRowing’s official suppliers include Boathouse Sports, Vespoli, WinTech, Filippi, Croker Oars, Rudy Project, Concept2, Nielsen Kellerman, PowerHTV and Ludus Tours. USRowing also receives generous support from the National Rowing Foundation and its corporate sponsors and partners ANXeBusiness Corp, Voxer, EZ Dock, EMCVenues and The Perfect SNAQUE. For more information, visit www.usrowing.org. USRowing has created The Row to London to engage sponsors leading up to the 2012 Olympic Games, with proceeds going to help ensure the U.S. team’s success. Opportunities also exist to partner with America Rows – supporting diversity initiatives and adaptive programs. For more information, please contact Beth Kohl at firstname.lastname@example.org.