World class rower Elise Beuke is back in the Sequim-Dungeness Valley and she’s finding it hard to take it easy.
She spent all summer training daily for the World Rowing Junior Championships leading to two weeks in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for the competition. She and Isabella Strickler (Grosse Pointe, Mich.) took seventh in the double scull competition on Aug. 8.
On her return trip, Beuke traveled 33 hours and slept for about six of those before spending her first full day in the area on Aug. 12.
“I’m taking a week off,” she said. “I don’t want to but you have to or you can get burned out. It’s hard not to go for a run or a workout.”
But Beuke has plenty of summer left in Sequim. She’ll move into her dorm room on Sept. 24 as a freshman at the University of Washington focusing on rowing and a degree in art history.
“I’m lucky,” she said. “Some of the athletes who went to the world championships have like a week off before they go back to school.”
The rowing championships became part of a bigger story in Rio as reports came out about the pollution levels in the the Rodrigo de Freitas Lake where Beuke competed and the 2016 rowing competition for the Rio Summer Olympics is held.
The Associated Press reported that 13 Team USA junior rowers and four staff became ill with gastrointestinal issues possibly from pollution in the lake.
Beuke said her coach from the Olympic Peninsula Rowing Association, Rodrigo Rodrigues, who co-coached the U.S. team, is from Brazil, and had a different perspective on the reports and encouraged her not to give into the hype. She said some Americans were saying not to drink or eat certain things like fruits, meats and water from restaurants.
“I’m the type of person who will try any weird food or cultural thing,” Beuke said. “I ate chicken heart and all the random stuff they had.”
Beuke theorizes teammates became ill from a 24-hour bug.
“No other countries got sick except a boy from Germany and we were in a hotel with 14 other countries,” she said.
“If it had to do with water, it wouldn’t be 24 hours. It would be in everyone and last a really long time.”
The common practice to bleach oars was highlighted in Brazil by national media outlets too, Beuke said.
“It’s a sanitizing thing,” she said. “We do it everywhere. Not just in Brazil.”
Usually, she keeps her water bottle in the boat but Beuke opted not to after the first day when she saw lake water splash on it.
But that didn’t stop her teammate Strickler from breaking tradition.
“Isabella has a lucky hat,” Beuke said. “Her mom sent me one because at a regatta you have to have matching outfits. I usually like to wear a visor. On the days we didn’t wear it, she’d put it in the boat and it would get water on it. She didn’t want to wash the luck out.”
Along with many rowers feeling ill, races were moved up due to oncoming storms during its last two days.
However, Beuke and Strickler came away with the best time in the double scull (7:22.99) in the B Finals. But Beuke wasn’t too impressed with that stat.
“The way the race course is, as you go down there are spots where a huge crosswind will hit you,” she said.
“It was a lot windier in the second heat (A Finals). We just didn’t have a wind and they had a crosswind.”
Regardless of her rowing outcome, Beuke speaks highly of her experience in Brazil and attributes much of it to Rodrigues who took her to see some sights and meet former rowers he coached.
“Rio was really cool,” she said. “It was pretty close to what I expected. I didn’t expect it to be as dirty but I knew Brazil was a Third World country.”
However, she found the people all to be kind and hospitable and their art and culture to be beautiful.
“There is street art everywhere like a mural on a wall or a super cool painting,” Beuke said.
Brazil’s culture resonated with Beuke who is an artist in many forms. But with so much attention put on rowing, when she was asked to define herself in a word or two, she jokingly replied, “Elise Beuke, human.”
“I’m OK with rowing defining me,” she said. “I just don’t want it to be the sole thing that defines me. I like rowing and whether or not I want it to be my thing, it is and it’s how people know me. Once you are a rower you never stop.”
She’s found people are involved in the rowing community in many ways and that she’s now always going to be a part of it.
“It’s a really supportive community,” she said.
Prior to the world championships, Beuke said she liked keeping rowing quiet and laying low as long as possible.
“It was this random thing no one knew about,” she said.
“I wanted to do my training and workouts and have my goals first and see where it takes me.”
But in a little over a month, Beuke takes on another journey, college, joining a few of her U.S. teammates.
Beuke said she’d consider trying out for the U-23 national rowing team if asked, but aside from rowing for the Huskies, she’s not sure if she’ll do more rowing on another team or take the summer off. However, taking some time to figure out those details is a human thing to do.
Random Questions with Elise Beuke:
Question 20: What is your dream job?
Beuke: A museum curator. I like modern art the most.
Question 21: As a child what did you want to be?
Beuke: I always thought it would be fun to be a surfer. I always wanted to learn to surf. I always thought the professional surfers like Bethany Hamilton were so cool.
Question 31: Would you give me a dollar?
Beuke: Yeah. In the big scheme of things a dollar doesn’t matter that much to me. It wouldn’t affect me that much.
Question 41: Who is one person you’d like to arm wrestle?
Beuke: The first question you ask yourself is do I want to win the arm wrestling match. The second question is who would I want to hang out with. I would say Serena Williams (tennis player) because she’s super strong and super bad-ass. Would I want to lose? I would lose to her.
Question 42: What is your best memory of Sequim?
Beuke: I grew up (in Dungeness) playing on the beach and watching the sunset at 3 Crabs and being in the water with my brother and sister (Blaise and Emma) and later having sand fights.
In Random Questions, members of the community each draw five random questions (sometimes more) out of 50 from a bag and he/she will answer these questions for your entertainment. With suggestions for random interviews, e-mail Matthew Nash at firstname.lastname@example.org.