Miami native and Cuban American Robin Prendes was knocked out of medal contention Tuesday, as his Lightweight Four team finished fifth in a semifinal race at at the Eton Dorney Rowing Center in Windsor, Ontario.
One of three U.S. rowing teams competing in the London Games, Prendes and teammates Anthony Fahden, Will Newell, and Nick La Cava qualified for the semifinal race on Sunday when they won a four-team repechage. The win was crucial, as the US team had the slowest time in Saturday's opening heats.
That momentum did not carry over into the semifinal, though, and Prendes and the US team were relegated to the second 6-team bracket for Thursday's Final.
"We hoped to be a little more competitive," he told the Miami Herald Tuesday. "There was a bit of a crosswind so it pushed us to the side, and we were never able to get our rhythm. We were struggling to keep pace."
"It was a phenomenal learning experience," he added, saying that he hopes to come back to the Olympics in 2016, when Rio de Jeneiro hosts.
Prendes and his family emigrated to Miami from Matanzas, Cuba in 1995, when Prendes was 6 years old. He attended Coral Park high school, where he took up rowing in hopes of gaining a scholarship to an elite university.
Prendes spent countless mornings rowing through the canals near Miami International Airport, sharing the mucky water with alligators. Princeton, Cornell, and Columbia all offered scholarships to Prendes, and he attended Princeton.
"He was a soldier, so focused, so disciplined, like a horse with blinders on," Prendes' mother Vicky told the Miami Herald.
"At 15, he told us, 'I want to go to a good college,'" his father, Rodolfo, said. "We told him we couldn't afford it. I took him to the muddy canals [near MIA] and said, 'There is money in there.' Robin said, 'There is? Where?' I told him, 'If you get up at 5 in the morning every day, I will bring you here ...you'll see the money will show up.'"