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Inside the Engine Room

A former Syracuse University rower discusses competing for the Orange and training for the Olympics with the Great Britain Rowing Team.

Syracuse Women rowers on the water.
Hattie Taylor, center, competes with the rest of her Syracuse University team in 2017. Photo courtesy of Syracuse University Athletics.

Hattie Taylor ’17 can relate to the well-known saying, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Taylor is a rower, and like all rowers she knows the value of hard work, discipline and, most importantly, teamwork.

“In rowing, you’re with people who will push you. You’re not best friends with everyone, but we’re all after the same thing, which is inspiring and makes you work harder,” Taylor says.

Hattie Taylor portrait.
Hattie Taylor, a member of the Great Britain Rowing Team, qualified for the Tokyo Olympic Games before they were postponed.

Born and raised in the United Kingdom, Taylor started rowing at the age of 12 after being encouraged to try the sport by her parents, both former college rowers. Taylor rows in a two-person boat and an eight-person boat, where she usually sits in the middle section, aka the “engine room,” where the strongest and most powerful rowers are placed.

“I like being in the middle because that's what they call the powerhouse, the middle four. Obviously, it's really fun to be a part of that because you're responsible for the main bulk of the power.”

As a member of the Great Britain Rowing Team, Taylor has won two World Championships, two European Championships and five World Cups. Last year, she accomplished the ultimate dream for any amateur athlete—qualifying for the Olympic games, which she says she had never seriously considered until rowing for Syracuse University.

The Tokyo Olympics were postponed until the summer of 2021 due to the pandemic and, like many athletes, Taylor will have to requalify to compete. She and the rest of the Olympic rowing team were selected the weekend before mass shutdowns and stay-at-home orders began around the world.

“It was a weird weekend because I thought, ‘I've achieved this great goal of qualifying for the Olympics, but it’s not actually going to happen.’ It all came about so quickly. I really didn't even have time to process it. Suddenly everyone’s in lockdown for five and a half months. We didn't go to the training center from March until September.”

Rowing and Learning at Syracuse University

Syracuse University Women's Rowing team.
Hattie Taylor, bottom second from right, with the rest of the women’s rowing team in 2017. Photo courtesy of Syracuse University Athletics.

Taylor was taking a gap year after secondary school when she first met with a rowing coach staff member from Syracuse University to discuss rowing for the Orange. She really liked the combination of a robust, well-supported sports program and strong academics, as well as the opportunity to live in the United States. The possibility of an athletic scholarship was particularly enticing to Taylor. “The NCAA scholarship really isn’t matched in the U.K. The sort of money that’s put into U.S. sports isn’t like anywhere else in the world,” she says.

Taylor had never even visited campus when she committed to Syracuse. After meeting with the Syracuse University rowing coach staff member, she scrounged for every picture of the University that she could find online to get a sense of the campus.

Once she arrived, Taylor embraced the college experience wholeheartedly. She majored in political science with double minors in sociology and religion, and she’s contemplating going to law school once she’s completed her rowing career. She became an active member of the Syracuse Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, the European Student Association and the Sociology Honors Society.

She also volunteered for Young Scholars , a program that supports the educational achievement of native-born and refugee youth. In fact, she loved mentoring so much that she still advises teens today through the program Brightside , where she mentors young adults in their final year at secondary school to help them learn about a sector of education or professional life that they are interested in. “I think mentoring is something that I would like to pursue even if I’m not rowing.”

Her athletic accomplishments while at Syracuse include medals at the ACC Championships, the O’Leary Cup and the Clemson Invitational, along with medaling at other events, both national and international. Taylor describes competing at Syracuse as “slightly surreal,” but bigger and better than she ever could have imagined.

An All-American, Taylor credits rowing with bringing purpose and direction to her life. She uses those lessons of resiliency and overcoming adversity when mentoring young adults in the United Kingdom. Taylor reminisces about Syracuse, why she relishes the school pride associated with being an alumna, the joy she felt qualifying for the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics, and how she's motivated to requalify after COVID-19 delayed the games.

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Getting Back into Training

Before the pandemic, Taylor and the rest of the Great Britain Rowing Team would start their day early, hitting the gym at 7:30 a.m. and on the water by 8 a.m. Their training would last well into the afternoon. “Typically, a training day would include a row, an erg [ergometer] and weights. It's a lot of long miles,” says Taylor.

In September, the team resumed training at British Rowing’s national training center in Caversham, England, after working out at home since March using indoor rowing machines, bikes, and weights. “We had to spend a lot of time on the erg, which gets you very fit, but it's also hard,” says Taylor. “It was difficult to stay motivated because you want to be on the water. The erg was effective, but training like this and under these circumstances was nothing I would have thought would happen in my time.”

Taylor is working toward qualifying again for the 2021 Olympics, and then possibly even the 2024 Paris Olympic Games. Despite the delayed Olympics, she is happy to be back on the water and training with her teammates for the sport’s ultimate prize.

“The reward is so good when you get it. That's what I love about rowing.”

Lisa Maresca

This story was published on .

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