TORONTO – Enjoying a rare opportunity to compete just 30 miles from where she grew up, Buffalo rower Sarah Giancola had a career breakthrough at the Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games.
Competing in her first multi-event Games, the Park School graduate leaves the regatta that ended Wednesday with two medals – a silver in Wednesday’s quadruple sculls and a bronze from Tuesday’s lightweight double sculls.
They are the first medals she has ever won in a major international competition. Her previous highlights were finishing seventh in last year’s world championship and fourth at the under-23 worlds.
“I am super excited,” Giancola, who will turn 25 next month, said from the rowing venue in St. Catharines. “It was exciting to use all of my training and all of my experience in a very productive way.”
While it was a lot of fun, she added, it was also very tough.
“Today was a battle in a straight headwind and it took us the whole 2K to get through Argentina,” she said, referring to the narrow margin of less than two seconds that separated the silver and bronze in the quad. Canada won the gold. It was also a boat from Argentina that she and partner Victoria Burke held off for the bronze on Tuesday.
Since January, Giancola has been training in Southern California, where Burke and her coach are based. The goal is to use the Pan Am success as a springboard toward making the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. With this season now over, Giancola will enjoy a bit of down time before returning to Los Angeles in the fall for several months of intense training with Burke. The pair will go to Florida in April for the first Olympic trials competition on the road to Rio.
In the meantime, having been away from home for so long, the self-described “Buffalo girl” was thrilled to have both family and a lot of hometown support on hand for her races in St. Catharines.
“It was awesome to have 20 to 30 people cheering me on from the finish line this whole week,” said Giancola, who took up the sport at age 14 and rowed collegiately at Northeastern University. “I’m so grateful to all of them for coming to support me, especially the guys down at West Side Rowing Club, where I learned to row.”