Episode 118 | Kate Bertko: From Heavyweight to Lightweight

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In Episode #118 of the LEO Training Podcast, the 5th and final interview of the lightweight rowing podcast series I interview Stanford Women’s Lightweight Coach, Kate Bertko.

In the previous episode we heard from Peter Antonie who went from competing as a lightweight to competing as a heavyweight. Kate will be sharing her rowing career and how she transitioned from a heavyweight to a lightweight and having outstanding success in both weight classes.

Kate took her experience from her athletic career and has immediately translated that to success on the coaching front with the Stanford Women’s Lightweight Rowing program with three consecutive titles at the IRA National Championship at the helm.

Interview Topics:

Part 1 – Athletic Career | Heavyweight to Lightweight

  • You graduated from Princeton University in 2006 and started your career on the national team as a heavyweight and later transitioned to a lightweight.
  • You graduated two years out from the Beijing Olympics. What was the transition like going from Princeton University to the US National Team? What was your focus on in those first few years?
  • In 2009, from your results on USRowing and World Rowing you appeared to be competing in sculling and sweep events. What’s the back story behind World Cup III in 2009 at Lucerne, you competed in the W8+ and W4x, getting 2nd in the eight and a later that summer at the World Championships took a Silver Medal in the Women’s 4x?
  • Leading up to the 2012 Olympics you were focusing primarily in the heavyweight sculling boats, both the W4x and W2x. 
  • What led you to your decision to move from the openweight category to a lightweight?
  • How did you make the change in terms of training, sleep, diet/nutrition?
    • How much weight did you have to drop in total?
    • How did this effect your performance?
  • In the next quadrennium your focus was solely on competing as a lightweight.
    • You rowed the LW2x with Kristin Hedstrom which resulted in a silver medal at the 2013 World Championships. What was that that year like? 
    • In 2014 and 2015 you rowed in the LW1x earning a bronze medal at the World Championships
    • In 2016 competed at Rio Olympic Games in LW2x with Devery Karz


Part 2 – Coaching Career | Stanford, USA W2x

  • Retired after Rio and promptly named head coach of the Cardinal Lightweight Women on Sept 9, 2016.
  • In your first two seasons, you have won the IRA National Championship in the Lightweight Women’s 8+.
  • What are some of the biggest changes and adjustments you had to make going from an athlete to a head coach?
  • What are some of the aspects of the culture you have tried to create at Stanford from your international experience?
  • Would you discuss your work coaching the Women’s 2x of Meghan O’ Leary and Ellen Tomek? You and Sarah Trowbridge are coaching the W2x. How did that come to be and what’s that experience been like in conjunction with your head coaching responsibilities?


Extra | Training Recommendations | To be used

  • What’s your top technical tip/drill for a rower?
  • Favorite session on the erg? Water?
  • 2K PR?
  • Injuries/Medical : Atrial fibrilation, emergency abdominal surgery
  • What type of training session do you recommend an athlete do for continued development?
  • Best advice to make weight?
  • If you were consulting with FISA and the IOC what would be your recommendation to keep lightweight rowing in the sport?
  • How does rowing need to continue to progress and evolve past the 2020 Tokyo Games?

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Show Notes: