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It’s Olympics or bust for Ian Silveira.

And you have to imagine that’s going through his head as he and his teammates pull their boat off the rack and into the water every morning. Ian has been rowing competitively since high school, and in that time, he’s competed in 8 world championships. At 25, his collegiate career is just behind him and his biggest challenge just ahead.

In a few days, he’ll travel to Florida to compete for a spot at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio. We rode alongside Ian and his teammates to learn more about training and competing at the highest level.

Q: Rowing is a relatively obscure sport in the US. How did you first get introduced and interested in rowing?

A: I was first introduced to rowing while I was in high school - I decided to transfer schools with the intention of playing for the football team. The funny thing about my decision to stop playing football was that I thought it was going to be too much work - I was a bit lazy back then. One of my good friends somehow convinced me to go out for the rowing team. I had never heard of rowing, and I had no idea what it would entail. As it turns out it was probably the sport that would require the most work, and to this day I really don't know what made me stick with it. I will say, that from the first moment I got in a boat, the opportunity to be out on the water every day mixed with the feeling of moving a boat in unison with my teammates was the most unique sporting experience I had had.

Q: You’ve competed at the highest level of the sport traveling to numerous world championships and now training for a spot at the Olympics. What do you think has made you so successful?

A: I think it is my constant drive and determination to be better, and my inability to accept anything less than my absolute best at all times. Understandably, it’s not possible to be the best all the time, but I feel like if I am constantly trying to be the best.

Q: It seems like there is a variety of body shapes and physical skills in the sport. Are there qualities, skills, or traits that make someone “good” at rowing?

A: While being tall and having long limbs is helpful, it isn't absolutely necessary to be successful in rowing. The main qualities that make a successful rower are...

toughness, endurance, and the ability to put in long, mind numbing hours of continuous work.

The ability to build up an enormous aerobic base is essential for success, and that is true regardless of size or shape.

There are a lot of early mornings where you wake up and ask yourself, is it all really worth it?

Q: How do you stay motivated and focused on a goal like making it to the Olympics?

A: Since I started rowing I wanted to compete at the Olympics. It has been a dream of mine for almost 14 years now. What keeps me going is the potential realization of that dream.

That said, you have to really commit to putting life on hold because training becomes life. There are a lot of early mornings where you wake up and ask yourself, is it all really worth it? Are all the long hours in the gym, in a boat, on an erg, or any other type of training really worth it?

But, it’s thinking about the moment when you're sitting at the starting line, an American Flag on your chest, knowing that you’re representing your country at the most elite competition in the world. That’s what gets me through.

Q: What has rowing taught you?

A: Rowing has taught me the power of hard work and perseverance. I know that sounds very cliche, but with rowing the workouts are always long and extremely demanding. The ability to keep your composure under extreme pressure, both physically and psychologically, is the most useful thing rowing has taught me. Being able to preserve through situations that seem almost too difficult to handle, and to be able to do it time and time again is the best lesson that rowing, and sports in general, have taught me.

Q: Can you lay out a typical week of Training (Monday - Sunday) to give us a better idea what it's like to be Ian Silveira?


AM: 20K (12.5 miles) Row

AM2: 60-80 min weights session

PM: Off


AM: 28K (17.5 miles) Row

PM: 24K (15 miles) Erg


AM: 28K (17.5 miles) Row

PM: 24K (15 miles) Erg


AM: 20K (12.5 miles) Row

AM2: 60-80 min weights session


AM: 4K (2.5 miles) max effort erg

AM2: 15K (9.3 miles) Row

PM: 10K (6.2 miles) Erg


AM: 12K (7.5 Miles) Row

AM2: 30min max effort erg at 20 strokes per minute

PM: 15K (9.3 Miles) Erg


AM: 180 min (55 Miles/3 hour) Mt. Tam Bike Ride

Follow Ian Silveira on Instagram

Photography by Dylan Nord