After just missing Olympic berths, Stuart Sim and Ben Davison are back with UW crew

Stuart Sim a senior coxswain, and Ben Davison a sophomore, are committed to putting UW back on top of the podium at this year’s IRA finals.

A year ago, Stuart Sim and Ben Davison, on leave from the Washington men’s rowing team, were on the threshold of becoming Olympians, a lifetime achievement for any athlete.

Both trained for months with their national teams — Sim as coxswain of the Australian men’s eight, Davison as a member of the U.S. men’s quadruple sculls (four rowers, two oars each). Both needed strong showings at the ultracompetitive Final Olympic Qualification Regatta last May in Lucerne, Switzerland, known among rowers as the Regatta of Death.

Both performed valiantly, and both, needing to finish first or second, fell just seconds short.

“We missed qualifying by eight-tenths of a second,” said Davison, recalling a scorching finish that left the U.S. fractionally trailing New Zealand for the final qualifying spot. “We’ll always question, was that amount of energy there in the boat? We’ll never know.”

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For Sim, the Australian eight was part of a four-boat, neck-and-neck mad dash entering the final 500 meters of a 2,000-meter race, but the Aussies gradually slipped off the pace, finishing less than four seconds behind second-place Poland.

“The level of competition I experienced at the University of Washington was what elevated me to be able to contend for the Olympics,” said Sim, who coxed UW’s varsity eight to Intercollegiate Rowing Association national championships in 2014 and 2015. “If I didn’t go to UW, I don’t think I would have been able to make the men’s national team.”

Both are back with UW — Sim a senior, Davison a sophomore — and committed to putting UW back on top of the podium at this year’s IRA finals. Last year, Washington had an unprecedented run of five straight national titles broken by rival California.

Cal defeated UW by five seats on a windy Montlake Cut April 22, setting up a rematch between the top-ranked Bears and No. 2 Washington on Saturday near Sacramento at the Pac-12 championships.

The two schools will also likely duke it out for the national title on the same course at the IRA championships June 2-4. In the last 11 years, Washington has won the IRAs seven times (2007, 2009, 2011-15), Cal three (2006, 2010, 2016).

UW coach Michael Calla­han is happy to have both athletes back.

“Stuart is like having another coach in the boat,” he said. “He stands out with his intellect and his knowledge of technique and tactics. Trust has been a key theme for the year. Stuart is very confident in his way of speaking, and people tend to listen to his point of view. He’s a good bridge between the rowers and the coaching staff. I have a lot of confidence in him.”

Monitoring his crew’s mindset is a vital skill for Sim.

“It’s how you manage nine guys who have different…

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