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25-years in the making: Miami Rowing Club duo accomplishes this feat at Youth Nationals

Robert Cancio, standing, celebrates with Diego Veiga.
Robert Cancio, standing, celebrates with Diego Veiga. RAS Photography

In late March, Miami Rowing Club coach Cesar Herrera told Robert Cancio and Diego Veiga that they would row the men’s youth double.

“That was a game-changer,” said Cancio, an 18-year-old Miami native who is of Cuban ancestry. “Prior to that, we had been concentrating on the [four-man boat].”

On June 9 in Sarasota, Herrera’s faith in Cancio and Veiga was rewarded as that duo won a gold medal at the U.S. Rowing Youth Nationals, an annual event for high school athletes.

It was the first gold medal for Miami Rowing Club at that event since the first competition 25 years ago, and that was not the only reason it was a rare accomplishment.

“Starting to train together in April and then winning gold two months later is very unusual,” said Cancio, who is headed this fall to MIT, where he will likely study bio-engineering and management. “Most crews end up continuously racing and training the entire year, starting in August.

“A boat like a double takes a lot of time to get its technique together in order to work efficiently.”

Veiga, who just finished his junior year at MAST Academy, was born in Belgium, where his mother is from. His father is from Spain.

Meanwhile, Cancio has been hoping for a national’s title since he failed to qualify in 2018. He still went to the event in Sacramento last year because his sister, Sofia, was competing.

“I was watching races I wish I could’ve been a part of,” Cancio said.

This season, didn’t start well for Cancio, who fractured his right foot in August. His foot hit some coral while he was swimming in Key Biscayne, and it later got infected.

“It was scary,” said Cancio, who was out about three weeks.

In the end, it was a happy story for Cancio, who will continue his rowing career at MIT. And it was also a big regatta for the Miami Rowing Club, which got a seventh-place finish from its women’s lightweight four team that consists of Maia Sanchez, Ana Orriols, Valentina Audisio and Sophia Bogert, with Hunter Poirier as cox. That group was coached by Yhoan Uribarri.

The men’s lightweight eight, coached by Herrera, finished 10th with a crew of Nikolas Sanchez, Antonio Tabaro, Nicholas Cordoves, Richard Killow, Theo Chiquillo, Sean Berning, Brandon Rodriguez and Rodrigo Miranda, with Virginia de Ovin as cox.

In the Under-17 class, coached by Yamel Ortiz, Nicolas Nadal and Elias Bazan finished fourth.

Orriols, part of the women’s team that finished seventh, is an 18-year-old aspiring lawyer who recently graduated from Miami Palmetto High and is headed to Georgetown University this fall.

She fell in love with rowing four years ago when she joined MRC. Rowing soon became a “healthy addiction”, Orriols said.

“I didn’t know what commitment was until I started training four hours per day, six times a week,” she said. “It’s a demanding sport because you have to use every part of your body to make the perfect stroke. You have to have strong legs, a strong core, strong arms and a strong back.

“Your mind also has to be strong because of the pain. Your brain is telling you that you can’t do it, but your training is telling you that you can.”

After the Junior Nationals, Orriols went to the Bahamas to celebrate with the girls from her boat.

“This year,” Orriols said, “has shown me how fulfilling it is to row with your best friends.”

Olympia Area Rowing celebrated Learn to Row Day by inviting community members to the boathouse to learn about rowing and try their hand at the sport inside the Budd Inlet.

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