Sahar Ibrahim ’16, from Calgary, Alberta, rows in the second seat of Wellesley’s first varsity 8 boat. She began her crew career in the novice boat as a first year at Wellesley and recently picked up All-Regatta honors for her performance in crew’s latest Seven Sisters Championship.
Wellesley Crew recently finished its fall season earning a sixth consecutive Seven Sisters Championship title on Oct. 26 and secured a program-best third place at the Head of the Charles Regatta the previous week. With a strong fall showing under their belt, Ibrahim and the Blue crew team are excited for a productive winter training period before their spring season and the NCAA Championships. The Wellesley News recently sat down with Ibrahim to discuss her sport, goals for the winter and spring seasons, and her life as a Wellesley athlete.
Anna Cahill (A.C.): What’s the best and worst part about being a Wellesley athlete?
Sahar Ibrahim (S.I.): I guess it’s the best and worst. Tt’s having such a busy schedule and having to balance everything. So in that sense it’s a curse, but it’s also a blessing because it helps me be more on top of my stuff and have more structure to my days.
A.C.: What’s unique about crew?
S.I: Well, it is that whole early-morning aspect, and not just because we wake up early, but because every morning, we go off campus, driving 15-20 minutes away, and we go on the water in this pristine environment. We watch the sunrise every morning, and every morning we get to be part of this greater culture of rowing, instead of being isolated from it and then in tournaments going towards it. We’re always part of it and living it, which is really cool. And I’ve always loved water sports, so for me, even though there’s so much going on in your body in terms of the muscles that you’re using, there’s still something really meditative about it and very calming. Even though you’re driving really hard with your legs, for instance, your shoulders are still really relaxed and your hands are relaxed on the oar.
A.C.: What are workouts like and how do they change from when you’re in-season to when you’re off-season?
S.I.: In terms of the actual workout itself, it doesn’t really change that much from in-season to off-season. Now, we’re preparing for spring season, so it’s shorter pieces, but still developing a good cardio base. The biggest difference is that you don’t have your coaches around, which is in every division III sport. It’s not individual though, because we still have our entire team, so it’s figuring out strategies on how we can get everyone to motivate each other, push each other and look toward the spring season with goals in mind. [We think,] “Where do we as a whole team want to be?” and not just “I want to get fast for myself so I can get a seat in the top boat.” It’s “We’re all going to get fast so we can all beat everyone else.”
A.C.: As a student-athlete at Wellesley, how do you balance your commitment to the team and to your schoolwork?
S.I.: Basically, whenever I have any free time, it’s time to do schoolwork and get it done. Also, I understand that when I commit myself to doing a certain amount of hours for a workout, that is all I will spend doing crew stuff. So if I have a 45 minute workout, I will go do a 45 minute workout, and I am not going to waste mental time outside thinking, “Oh my gosh, I could have done this better.” I just do the best I can for the time I’ve allotted to it, and then move on.
A.C.: How do you stay motivated as an athlete? When you’re in season, is there a certain teammate or coach that gets you going for morning practice?
S.I.: Everyone gets everyone going. I think to be part of the crew team, you have to be a morning person, so everyone is pretty energized and everyone is pretty motivated in terms of setting goals and achieving them for themselves, and also setting goals and achieving them for the team and their boats. Rowing, unlike many other sports, has a different dynamic because we’re separated into smaller teams within a team, but we’re still pushing each other. So the idea isn’t that, when we’re doing side by side pieces, one boat wins. It’s that you go as fast as you can to pull everyone else with you because everyone else is going to be chasing those boats, so everyone else is going to be getting faster together.
A.C.: What are your personal and team goals for the spring season? Have they changed or altered after the fall season?
S.I.: I don’t think they’ve changed. Our goals for any season are to go out and do the best that we can do as a team. One of our biggest goals going into this winter season towards spring season is making sure that every individual on the team does it together and no one is left behind. So instead of having a huge range of ability on the team, we have everyone really close together and in the higher bracket. But, of course, we want to win too, because we’re competitors. We finished third in the country last year for our 1V and fourth overall, so also going for smaller numbers and top 1 or 2 [at NCAA Championships].
A.C.: Who’s your biggest competition going into the NCAA Championships?
S.I.: Definitely Trinity and Bates. We lost to Trinity and Bates in the Head of the Charles.
A.C.: Who is your favorite athlete?
S.I.: My favorite athlete is named Adam van Koeverden. He’s a Canadian sprint kayaker, and he really inspires me because he pushes so hard in all of his training. He goes in with the mentality that I might be doing what I think is the best I can, but somewhere out there someone else is pushing harder, so I need to push harder. When you look at his Olympic races, he’s very much a “go out in front and stay out in front” competitor. He also appreciates the sport; he’s not just in it to destroy the competition, he very much appreciates the sport and what it can do for an individual.
After a busy and successful fall season, the Blue will take break this winter from competition until heading to Maryland in late March.
Photo courtesy of Alim Hirji