Sunday Podiums at the 2019 World Rowing Cup II in Poznan, Poland
Kristine O'Brien (b), Meghan Musnicki, Brooke Mooney, Gia Doonan, Dana Moffat, Felice Mueller, Erin Reelick, Olivia Coffey (s), Katelin Guregian (c), Women's Eight, United States of America, silver, 2019 World Rowing Cup II, Poznan, Poland

With a time of 6:21.1, Brooke Mooney went faster for 2000 metres on the indoor rowing machine last week than any woman in history. The United States Olympic hopeful could soon get the chance to translate that raw power into boat-speed, if selected for America’s defending Olympic Champion women’s eights.

World Rowing spoke with Mooney about her phenomenal performance on the ergo and what’s ahead for indoor rowing’s newest world record holder.

Brooke Mooney – Copyright US Rowing

Not planning on it

When Mooney sat down on the ergo on 25 March 2021 for a 2000 metre test, pulling a world record was not top of mind. “I definitely had an idea of that split (needed to get a world record) very deep in my mind, but I wasn’t planning on it,” Mooney says of her preparations for the test mandated by USRowing’s Olympic coaches. “I knew how I wanted to start the piece. What happened after that took me by surprise.”

The biggest surprise, however, was not so much the world record but more about the significant improvement since her previous personal best 2k piece. “In December, 2020, I pulled 6:29.1.”

“I had seen some good progress in my 6k from 2019 to 2020,” she recalls. “But that was over a period of six months to a year, not a few months.”

World record pacing

When indoor rowing manufacturer Concept2 – the company that also certifies indoor rowing world records set on their machines – posted a shot of Mooney and her ergo monitor on social media, a number of comments focused on Mooney’s astonishing pacing. After pulling an even 1:37.2 per 500m split for the first 1000 m of the piece at a fast but relatively cool 34 or 35 strokes per minute, the second half was a tour de force that saw Mooney average 1:34.4 and 1:32.4 splits in the final two 500m segments as she indefatigably dropped her per 500m splits with every step up in power and stroke rate.

“I was trying to have a fast first 500 to see if I could get the average split down,” says Mooney. “But that didn’t go as planned, so I just tried to hold it in the 1:37s through the 1k. I don’t know what came over me. I started seeing faster projected finish times and just went for it.”

“It makes me excited,” says Mooney of the potential for even more speed. “I can adjust my pacing and narrow my margin from the first 500 to the last 500 and see if I can get more out of it. Maybe not tomorrow or even the next 2k since you are not always going to go faster each time, but yes, I definitely think I can go faster.”

Copyright Brooke Mooney

As for her opinion of the old rowing adage – ergs don’t float – meaning that having a strong score on the indoor rower doesn’t always translate into boat speed – Mooney hopes to prove that one wrong. “I’m trying to figure out if ergs can float,” she says. “I think it is possible, but it takes a lot of work.”

Life, sport and baking

Even now with six years of experience in the sport, Mooney sees herself as a relative newcomer. “I really started rowing in my senior year [of high school],” she says. “Then I rowed all four years at the University of Washington and then joined the national team.

“I’m still fairly new to national team level rowing. I have no idea what I’ll be able to do as I keep training. My current goal is to race for gold at the Olympics. I would love to be in the eight, but we’ll see what happens. It is a really competitive team.”

At university, Mooney earned a major in medical anthropology and global health with a minor in environmental health and another in nutrition. While her retirement from elite sport is still far off at this stage, she hopes one day to go into nursing or the field of public health.   For now, Mooney has found an outlet for her nutritionist zeal in the realm of baking.

“Since joining the (US rowing national) training centre, I’ve really got into baking,” says Mooney. “It helps that I have a team of hungry athletes to bake for. Baking is my zen thing to do.”

Regardless of what the future holds, there are a few things about which Mooney feels absolutely certain. “I’m really thankful for my coaches and team mates,” she says. “It makes me excited to see what we can do together.”