All Business: Rower David Banks
Photo: David Gonzales/Stanfordphoto.com
By Sam Scott
David Banks began rowing at Stanford, and since the 2008 Olympics, where he finished ninth in the men’s four, has taken numerous accolades. In 2010, he won the eight at the U.S. Rowing National Championships and placed sixth at the World Men’s Rowing Championships. Banks, ’05, MS, ’06, now looks to London, where he rows in the men's eight heats on July 28.
In the 2008 Olympics, you rowed in the four, then enjoyed great success in the pair, and now you’re back in the Olympics in an eight. How different is it to race in each boat?
Each boat class is definitely a little bit different. The eight is so much faster than the four or pair. In the eight, everything happens so fast that there is not a lot of room for error. But in the Olympics, every event is extremely tough, so really there is little room for error in any of the boats. In the pair and four, each race is somewhat unique and there is a little more ebb and flow. The thing you notice about the eight is how loud it is [because you have] coxswains, as opposed to the pair or four.
You and classmate Jake Cornelius, ’06, account for a quarter of the oars on the eight. What does that say about Stanford rowing?
Jake and I go back a few years now. We started rowing together at Stanford when I was a sophomore and he was a freshman. I think it shows the progress that the Stanford program has made under our coach, Craig Amerkhanian. My first year was Craig's second year and we were in the beginning of a process to change the [rowing] culture at Stanford and to make it more competitive again, and to win. I think it just shows the work that we put in, as well as those before and after us. Jake and I have been pushing each other for years now. We both have made each other better through competition. He’s one of the best friends I have. We also will be joined by two other Stanford guys: Silas Stafford, ’08, who will compete in the pair, and Alex Osborne, ’09, who will compete in the quad. I think that further shows the hard work and dedication that Coach Craig has given to the program. We wouldn't be here without him.
You only started rowing at Stanford. When did it dawn on you that this was something that could take you to the Olympics? Were you instantly cranking crazy times on the erg?
I definitely didn’t instantly start standing out at Stanford. I don't think you would say that I was one of the best guys on our freshman team. But I am very thankful for Craig and my freshman coach, Jon Allbin. They provided great leadership and stuck by me while I figured out some things in the sport and through other tough times. And I tried to just work and get faster every day. . . . I really did not think about the Olympics much when I was rowing at Stanford. I was just trying to get faster and opportunities just started to happen. My senior year we had a transfer, Adam Kreek, ’06, who at that point had just rowed in the Athens Olympics and was a two-time world champion. I learned a lot from him, and I learned that I could do some things in this sport. But it did not really hit me that I would have an [Olympic] opportunity until Mike Teti invited me to camp after my senior year. And slowly the rowing world that I knew got a little bigger.
At 6-foot 2, you’re shorter than the behemoths with you in the boat. Because length seems to be so important in rowing, what do you have that overcomes that?
Yeah, it’s funny. Any time I go somewhere alone, people always tell me how tall I am, but I kind of laugh, thinking “they should see who I usually hang out with.” I think in rowing, like other sports, you just have to use your body effectively. You see all body types internationally and it just shows that anything is possible. Height definitely helps, but in rowing you have to be able to move your weight and your body. So I just work to try to squeeze all the length I can with my natural height and use qualities that I can control, such as fitness or power to help make myself more effective. I never try to use height or something as an excuse or a crutch. I try to focus on working hard and providing value to the boat and my teammates, and being as efficient as possible.
What’s your dietary regimen going into a big race?
I generally try to eat as much as possible when I can. I think that is pretty common with rowers, [though] I've been told I probably eat the most on the team. We burn a lot of calories in training and so we definitely need volume when we are eating. . . . I found it’s a lot cheaper to cook for yourself and than to eat out. We usually tend to just stick to the basics. So in the morning it is eggs, oatmeal, fruit, yogurt or cereal. Lunch is usually a sandwich or something similar. Dinners are usually chicken, beef, turkey with some rice or pasta and vegetables and salad or something. When shopping on a budget, it helps to cut out lots of junk food just because you cannot afford it. So I try—as a way of life, not necessarily just for training—to eat as healthy as I can. But I also make a point of trying to be as flexible as possible. You never know overseas or when travelling what you will be eating, or when. So you can’t let that mess you up before a race. You can't have [so] much of a routine [that] you won't have a good race unless you eat a certain thing.
Rowing has its own pinnacle events. How do the Olympics compare?
For rowing, the Olympics are our Super Bowl. It’s the biggest event. But you can’t let it take you out of your zone in a negative way. You can’t let all of the magnitude get the best of you. At the same time you have to understand what it means to represent your country and that you are involved in something bigger than yourself. . . . I try to just take things a day at a time, one practice at a time, one stroke at a time and not get carried away by it all. . . . For me, my first international championship was the Olympics, so that was all I knew. My family has been extremely supportive and they know that during a race it’s all business, so they have been great in keeping distractions away.
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- 2012 STANFORD OLYMPIC ROSTER
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- Grappling for Gold: Wrestler Matt Gentry
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- Twister: Diver Kristian Ipsen
- America's Hope: Synchronized swimmer Mariya Koroleva
- Hurdles Cleared: Hurdler Amaechi Morton
- The Comeback Canadian: Swimmer Tobias Oriwol
- Defending the Kiwis: Soccer's Ali Riley
- From the Pool to Ethiopia: Austrian Swimmer Markus Rogan
- Power Player: Water Polo's Jessica Steffens
- Flying to London: Pole Vaulter Katerina Stefanidi
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- Always in the Pool: Water Polo's Peter Varellas
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