Inside Ethan Ruiz’s bedroom, he has almost two dozen medals framed. All are from rowing.
The medal that isn’t in a frame is the latest one he’s earned. He put it on a statue.
While the medal isn’t gold like most of the medals hanging in his room, Ruiz said the newest medal is the most valuable one he has won during his career in crew. He hasn’t been in the sport that long, 3½ years, yet Ruiz has become quite the coxswain.
The Newport Harbor High incoming senior steered the U.S. men’s eight to a silver medal at the World Rowing Junior Championships in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Saturday. The U.S. finished behind the Netherlands, while Germany placed third.
Ruiz, a member from the Newport Aquatic Center, is now home in Newport Beach. It took him nearly 18 hours to return on Tuesday, and even though he experienced jet lag, Ruiz said he would do the flight all over again to experience what he and his team did in Rio de Janeiro.
“I thought it was really rewarding,” Ruiz said. “Not many people get to do it. It was a privilege to be there.”
Ruiz and his team, which included Mark Levinson, Hunter Johnson, Cameron Chater, Ethan Seder, Charles Watt, Andrew Gaard, Justin Best and James Palmer, rowers from the West Coast, Midwest and East Coast, helped the U.S. medal at the World Rowing Junior Championships for the first time in five years.
Placing second in the 2,000-meter race was quite the accomplishment for a team Ruiz said not many in the field expected to medal at all. The U.S. used a fast start to ensure it finished with some hardware. Ruiz said his team led through the 1,500 mark, until the Netherlands pulled ahead.
Instead of trying to catch the Netherlands, Ruiz said the U.S. focused on holding off the rest of the field.
“We were tired in the last 500 [meters],” said Ruiz, whose team finished in 5 minutes, 53.89 seconds, behind the Netherlands’ 5:51.74 and ahead of Germany (5:54.28).
The U.S. national team wound up with five medals overall, its best performance at the World Rowing Junior Championships. The five medals tied Italy for second, while Germany led all countries with 11 medals.
This might not be the last time Ruiz represents the U.S. at the World Rowing Junior Championships.
“I think there’s a strong possibility for that,” Ruiz said of returning for next year’s competition in Rotterdam, Netherlands, because the 17-year-old would still be eligible.