Rower from Naples to compete for gold

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify when in local time Musnicki will compete.

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Some of the top athletes in the world are battling in Tokyo right now for a chance at Olympic gold. That includes several from the Rochester area.

Meghan Musnicki, an elite rower from Naples, is showing she’s not ready to quit just yet.

News10NBC Sports Reporter Carly Mascitti spoke to Musnicki just before she left for Tokyo and Musnicki told her she feels she has more to prove.

She opened up about coming out of retirement, why she was determined to keep competing and her mindset about entering her third and final Olympics.

"It’s a little dramatic to say it, but it’s a death sentence if you’re expecting something," Musnicki said.

The two-time gold medalist’s road to the 2020 summer games has been different than years past after the Tokyo Olympics was delayed because of COVID-19.

Musnicki competes in the women’s eight. She and the other athletes in her boat had been training together year-round, with the goal of the Olympics taking place last July.

"When you’re training for the games, you’re riding this line, you’re toeing the line of constantly being on, so to think of doing that for another whole year, to go through Olympic selection another 365 days of it, is a little daunting, but once you wrap your head around it, it’s like, ‘Ok. One day at a time,’" Musnicki said.

Musnicki had come out of retirement in early 2019. Her intention was to make the Tokyo Olympic team.

"I just didn’t feel done," Musnicki said. "I felt I had more to learn, I felt I had more to get out of myself, and I love the sport. I love competing. I love racing and I actually love training."

The postponement could have made her question the decision to return, but Musnicki said that’s not in her DNA.

"Honestly, when they were cancelled, it wasn’t really something I even thought that much about that I was like, ‘Oh no, should I keep going? Should I stop?’ Because my goal was to train for the games and go to the Tokyo Olympics, and the Tokyo Olympics hadn’t happened," Musnicki said. "So I had to keep going."

Team USA is now seeking its fourth consecutive gold medal in the women’s eight, but Musnicki says all of the previously earned hardware doesn’t mean anything now.

"We train for opportunities – the opportunity to race at the Olympics, the opportunity to potentially win a medal, the opportunity to potentially win a gold medal," Musnicki said. "As a group of nine, that’s what we focus on. We don’t really focus on what was last year or years ago or eight years ago."

The U.S. won its heat last Friday to auto-advance to the final.

They’ll compete for gold this upcoming Friday, in Tokyo time. The event is expected to start at 9:50 p.m. Thursday in Eastern Standard time.