Solveig Imsdahl: No Stranger to the International Stage
July 12, 2012
Solveig Imsdahl, bow seat of the women’s lightweight double sculls at the 2012 World Rowing Under 23 Championships, is no stranger to competing on the international stage.
In addition to being a two-time U.S. Under 23 National Team member, Imsdahl is an accomplished pianist.
“I started to play the piano when I was four-years-old,” said Imsdahl. “My parents gave my sister and I each an instrument. I play the piano and she got the violin, so that we can accompany for each other. Growing up, my siblings and I practiced and played with one another and have traveled around Europe playing together.”
Imsdahl had several award winning performances from 1996 to 2009. Her musical feats include taking first prize at the 13th Carl Schroeder Music Competition and an award for the Best Interpretation of a Modern Piece on a piano won in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 2005
Born in Detroit, Mich., to United States natives, Imsdahl and her family moved to Germany when she and her twin sister, Marit, were one. Her mother wanted to experience living abroad, and the rest of the family benefited from the change.
Today, the twins are back in their country of birth. Imsdahl is in entering her senior year at Cornell University, where she pursues a music and pre-med degree.
“Whenever I do something, I question it, and I think about its significance,” said Imsdahl. “I feel it is important to give tasks to everything and to maintain focus.”
The mentality adopted by this multi-talented young woman appears to be that of a much older, worldly individual, and is certainly not common among 22-year-old Americans.
She applies the approach used when improving her musical abilities to several other aspects of her life, and attributes much of her success and strong dedication to self-improvement to her upbringing.
“I would not be where I am today without my family, because my parents have taught me and my siblings to be ambitious, have goals and not to be afraid to swim against the stream,” said Imsdahl.
Last year, Imsdahl took sixth in the lightweight quadruple sculls at the under 23 championships. This year, she opted to pair with Kayla McNeill to compete in the women’s lightweight double sculls event.
Imsdahl has high expectations for herself and her partner heading into this week of racing.
“My doubles partner and I have had two races heading into the under 23 championships,” said Imsdahl. “We won both races, so we know we’re pretty fast. But we know that some of the doubles from the other countries have been training together a lot longer. We have only been rowing together for three weeks, but we have a lot of power and speed. We’d like to get medals, but we’ll know better what to expect after we have our first race.”
Solveig’s older brothers introduced her, her sister and younger brother to the sport of rowing. Both competed as walk-ons at their respective universities, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Princeton University, and ever since rowing has accompanied music on the family’s list of talents to pursue.
During the school year, the twins row at Cornell in an open weight, predominantly large boat, sweep rowing program – a contrast to Imsdahl’s summertime lightweight sculling experiences.
Nonetheless, Cornell Head Coach Hilary Gehman recognized some of the attributes that carry over from collegiate rowing to racing for the under 23 lightweight team.
“She is tall, skinny and strong, with good boat feel and is a great small boat rower,” said Gehman. “Solveig is definitely competitive, and she is truly determined, not really the team cheerleader type.”
Passionate about rowing and playing the piano, Imsdahl utilizes her daily practice time for each as a means of relaxation amidst a demanding course schedule.
Prior to attending Cornell, Solveig and Marit raced together in a double. The twins finished first in the women’s double sculls at the 2010 National Championships in Segeberg, Germany, and third in the double sculls at the 2009 German National Championships.
Even though she does not have United States’ national team aspirations, Marit continues to accompany her sister in the preparation process.
“My sister has never tried out for the under 23 team, but she supports me in my goal and trains with me during the year to help me achieve it,” said Imsdahl. “We have a healthy competition. We keep each other focused. You can tell if one of us is having an off day because then the other one will excel more than the other. She is like the red line for the world record time on the television screen for swimmers, really keeping me on track.”
Solveig’s plans for the future include training for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and to eventually attend medical school.
“After graduating from Cornell next year, I’m going to take a gap year and (hope to) go to senior worlds in a single to see how I do,” said Imsdahl. “If I do well, I hope to find a doubles partner and to compete at the 2016 Olympics in the lightweight double.”
Whether she’s attempting a piece by one of her favorite composers, Beethoven and Chopin, or exhibiting her rowing abilities, Imsdahl is always prepared to give her best performance.