Kynast rows to two golds at CanAmMex regatta

Gus Kynast won two gold medals as part of the U.S. team at the CanAmMex Regatta in Mexico City.
Gus Kynast won two gold medals as part of the U.S. team at the CanAmMex Regatta in Mexico City.

Gus Kynast had a reason why he waited until last summer to start rowing.

It was the imposing shadow cast by his older sister Kaitlyn, a medal-winning member of the USRowing junior and senior teams and now an All-American sophomore at Stanford University.

“Before that I was hesitant – not wanting to be compared to Kaitlyn,” said the younger Kynast, a rising senior at Ridgefield High, about his delayed entry into the sport.

But once he took the plunge, Kynast found his path less daunting.

“I was able to separate myself as a rower from her,” he said. “With as well as she has been doing, she is definitely an inspiration.”

Kynast isn’t doing too badly himself. Competing for the U.S. team at the 2018 CanAmMex Regatta in Mexico City last month, Kynast won gold medals in the men’s quad and men’s single sculls events.

Those victories helped the U.S. compile 109 points and finish ahead of Canada (99 points) and Mexico (92 points).

In the men’s quad, Kynast and teammates Andrew Buchan, Rhys Krappe, and Itai Almogy edged Mexico by 0.4 seconds to finish first and win the gold medal. The U.S. boat had a time of 6:22.42 for the 2,000-meter race, with the hosts right behind in 6:22.82.

“From the start of the race we were neck and neck with the Mexican quad; there was never a point in the race when we had more than a seat on them,” said Kynast, who was the stroke for the U.S. “Around the last 500 meters I called an up in pace and drive but the Mexican quad didn’t seem phased at all, so I called another power move which put us a foot in front of them as we crossed the finish line.”

Kynast’s more unlikely gold medal came in the men’s single sculls, an event in which he was competing for only the second time.

“My goal for the race was to not flip the boat,” said Kynast. “Two days prior, during a practice run, I had crashed my single head on with another boat, snapping my oar.”

Competing in the U.S. team’s B boat, Kynast got off to a disheveled start, striking eight buoys with an oar and dropping to sixth place.

“After about a minute the other boats settled into their baseline pace, but I just kept up my

sprint,” said Kynast. “It was at the 1,000-meter mark when I realized I was five boat-lengths ahead of [the] second place [boat].”

When Kynast lowered his pace over the next 500 meters, a Canadian rower (William Simpson) made a move to challenge.

“With him coming up on me fast I just gripped my oars a little tighter and yammed it as hard as possible,” said Kynast.

The strategy worked. Kynast was able to hold off Simpson and win the 2,000-meter race by a little more than one second in a time of 7:36.82.

Kynast was named to the U.S. team for the CanAmMex competition following a process that began in March at a USRowing Identification Camp in Princeton, N.J. From there he was invited to attend a selection camp earlier this summer in Chula Vista, Calif., that included all the U19 men who were training and trying out to represent the U.S. at either the World Rowing Junior Championships or the CanAmMex Regatta.

Twenty-six athletes from USRowing’s U19 camps arrived in Mexico on July 7 to practice alongside crews from Canada and Mexico. The annual collaborative event concluded with two days of racing in the regatta.

With the international season complete, Kynast will now focus on training and competitions with his club team, the Norwalk-based Maritime Rowing Club. Next summer, he should be among the candidates to represent the U.S. at another international meet. After that, he wants to row in college.

In other words, his older sister has become far more of a role model than a burden.