SARASOTA, Fla. — It’s just after 6 a.m. in Sarasota and the sun has barely started to rise.
It’s a typical morning at Nate Benderson Park with the typical sounds.
Early morning commuters zooming by on I-75.
Two Olympic athletes, with tools in hand, unpack their gear and get ready for a hard day of training.
“This is what we call rigging the boat. We’re attaching rigger parts to this brand new boat,” Michelle Sechser told me.
Okay, that last part might not be typical for you or me, but for the past month, this is Michelle Sechser and Molly Reckford’s version of it.
And they wouldn’t have it any other way.
The pair are members of Team USA’s Lightweight Women’s Doubles Sculls crew. On this day, they were having their last practice before heading west.
“We are going to the Olympics in Tokyo, Japan,” Molly Reckford said with a huge grin on her face.
Michelle, a California Native, has been rowing for 20 years. This will be her first Olympics.
Molly Reckford, a New Jersey native who also proclaims to be a snowbird here, is the younger of the two. She has spent the last few years dominating on the National Team circuit.
They train two or three times a day. Two rows, then add in some weights, running, cross-training, or a bike ride. At some point, they have to also work their day jobs.
I’m exhausted just typing that last paragraph.
They’ll run drills with their coach. Practice different scenarios, varying their speeds.
“We will do some interval work, we’ll practice different speeds, paces, and different power efforts. Some days we’re going high hard and fast and somedays it’s just long consistent aerobic work,” said Sechser, a 20 year veteran of the sport.
It’s not all about the work though. A major component is communication. They can talk and chat while keeping in perfect sync.
It all comes together like Yin and Yang.
“My dreams depend entirely on Michelle and her dreams depend on me. I trust that she’s giving everything she can to get across the line and she trusts that I’m doing the same,” Molly Reckford said.
They will leave Sarasota, take a short training trip in Hawaii, and then head to Tokyo.
“I’m going to the Olympics,” Michelle Sechser said gleamingly.
This journey has them both working toward one goal that we can’t talk about here. At least out loud.
“It’s a dream come true, it’s always nice to come home with a medal, But for me personally, performing at my best is truly the goal,” Reckford told me.
After a year of cancellations and lockdowns, these two will finally get a chance to fulfill a lifelong goal, and one can not do it without the other.
This boat is a very special boat and I think we can do great things. If we put forward that kind of performance, our best, I think something special will happen,” Molly Reckford said.