Rowing for the Win

Jordan Dykema, a summer champion


Photo: Noah Axford (Courtesy)

Senior Jordan Dykema and his teammates training for the 2021 World Rowing Junior Championships.



Graphic: Annabel Wickham

Senior Jordan Dykema had anything but an average summer after submitting an application for the 2021 World Rowing Junior Championships.

Dykema was one of 75 people chosen to spend part of the summer at the Olympic Training Center in San Diego. Here, 22 out of the 75 people were selected to represent the United States at the 2021 World Rowing Junior Championships. 

“Once they were decided, we had roughly a month to train as a boat and make sure that everything was going well together,” Dykema said. 

His team competed in the eight-person boat race, meaning there were seven other rowers with one coxswain on his team. The other rowers were all 18 years old or younger and were from all over the United States. Together, they trained for the competition to make sure that they were fully ready for the difficult task ahead of them. 

“The reason we train so much is to tolerate more pain and to be able to go at a faster speed,” Dykema said. “We do a lot of steady-state with less cadence to develop muscle memory so that when you are at a really high speed, you don’t really think about what you’re doing as much.”

All of this training was essential to make sure that Dykema was able to row his best when he was competing in his event. During the event, it is quite difficult to deal with the pain. 

“Your legs are screaming and you kind of feel like you can’t breathe. My event is a little less than six minutes long so basically after the first 45 seconds, it is just really painful until the end,” Dykema said.

The competition took place in Plovdiv, Bulgaria from Aug. 11 to Aug. 15. The first race was a qualifier for the finals and Dykema’s team came first in their heat. Then they competed in the final and came first. They won with a time of 05:47:40, which was about 3 seconds faster than the team that came in second. 

“There are no thoughts [when rowing], it is just go … It is making sure that in the moment you are giving all of your effort,”  Dykema said. “We had already done some pretty good times in practice, so we knew that all we had to do was something we had already done before. We stuck to our game plan and succeeded.”

Dykema is following in the footsteps of his parents by taking up rowing as a sport. Beginning in seventh grade, Dykema initially rowed for the Seattle Rowing Center but moved to Pocock Rowing Center in 10th grade. From 11th grade onwards he has trained independently.

 “I train a lot in my house as I have a rowing machine,” Dykema said. “I also go to Vashon Island a little bit where I row by myself with my dad coaching me.”

As rewarding and unique of an experience that Dykema had, it came with its challenges. He spent the majority of his summer focused on rowing with no outside distractions.

“The most challenging part was probably just being able to be focused completely on rowing for so long and being on the ball constantly with no room for error,” Dykema said.

However, this challenge has not deterred him from continuing with the sport. Dykema is planning on rowing for the United States junior national team in 2022 and continuing his rowing career in college.

Graphic: Annabel Wickham