Staff writer Jack Roscoe sat down with Cornell lightweight rowing’s Marco Bustamante last semester to talk about everything from his favorite experiences in the sport to his go-to secondary sport.
This transcript has been modified for content and clarity.
1. How did you first get into rowing?
I actually started because a family friend rowed and one day as we were passing by the boathouse, my mom was like, “Oh, you should maybe try that.” I think it was honestly because I was a little bit chubbier back then and it was her way of inching me towards getting in shape. I went to the boathouse, asked if I could join, and they said “Yeah, come back tomorrow, we’ll teach you how to row,” and I just never stopped going back.
2. Can you tell me about your high school and rowing experience in Europe?
I went to high school in Thessaloniki, Greece at an American international school there. The Greek system is a bit different from the American system, but it’s pretty much the same in that you train throughout the year for the national championship in the end. I trained throughout that time mostly with a group of three other kids in a straight four (4-), where there are four people each holding one oar and no coxswain. We trained with that throughout the three years that I rowed there, day in and day out.
3. What would you say has been your best moment or accomplishment at Cornell so far?
Eastern Sprints … is always a special time. It’s our conference championships and that’s the last time we get to compete as a full team because for national championships it breaks off and it’s not the full 45 people or so that are on our team.
My freshman year I was in the Third Varsity for [the Eastern Sprints], which was a very special time for me because that year we had gone through the entire regular season undefeated. We were a pretty confident crew, and we [won] the conference championship with that boat. What was so nice was that not only did we win but across the board we all medaled. That led to us getting the Jope Cup, which is the points trophy. It was the second year in a row that Cornell had won it, so that was a super special moment for us and just a true team celebration.
4. How was the experience of rowing for the US in the lightweight four at U-23 championships?
There’s a camp that [the National Team] invites eight athletes to, and from those they choose four to row for the US in the straight four. Being invited to the camps as a freshman and pretty new to everything, I felt was a pretty big accomplishment.
I looked at it as, “Worst case scenario I get to spend two weeks rowing with some of the best athletes in the U.S. and get that much more rowing time with a great coach, [Colin Farrell‘‘05].”
I earned a seat in that boat and we actually finished with the second best result in US history, which was a big accomplishment for us [because] we were definitely the underdogs going in. It was a great experience learning to race at that level.
5. Is there anyone in your life that you aspire to be like?
I’d say an [alumnus] of our team, Matt White. He’s not only a great leader but what truly amazes me about him is how selfless of a leader he is. Pretty much all of what he does is not at all for himself, but just with the greater good of the team in mind. I think that’s something our team culture really pushes for: the idea of the team before anything else. I think he truly embodies that. He’s the true embodiment of a good sport, and just a dedicated athlete and successful person.
6. If you didn’t row, would you have pursued any other sports?
I used to play soccer, but I wasn’t that great at it. Had I not rowed, I would definitely be a very different person, but I probably only really would’ve found success in a sport that involves endurance, so I probably would’ve liked to pursue track and field.
7. When you’re not rowing, what is your favorite thing to do on campus or in Ithaca?
One of my favorite things to do is what we call “Purity on the Docks.” What we do is get Purity Ice Cream, and we hang out on the docks by the Farmer’s Market to watch the sunset or just enjoy a nice day.
8. What is your favorite class you’ve taken at Cornell and why?
I think the coolest one so far has definitely been Mechanical Synthesis. It’s a class that MechE’s have to take, where you learn the true nature of mechanical engineering. It’s pretty much a mechanical design class, and the whole thing culminates in a big project where you design and build a wind-powered water pump. It’s fun because you learn how to work in teams, how to design and do 3D modeling, and you get to actually manufacture the water pump out of aluminum. That ends up being your first real hands-on experience as a MechE, and that was definitely a formative class for me.
9. Do you have a favorite song or musical artist?
One of the songs that we’ll constantly put on during most of our workouts is “Electric Pow Wow” by A Tribe Called Red. We hold to ourselves that we’re kind of a tribe in the sense of a team, always supporting each other and working together. In general, that song is pretty exciting. It amps us up and gets us ready and reminds us of what we have to do.
10. What [were] your plans for this summer?
I am a Kessler Fellow, which is this program in the Engineering School that promotes entrepreneurship and helps engineers to become entrepreneurs. It fully funds somewhere from 10 to 15 students every year to intern with a startup of their choice. So, with that, [I interned] for a company in Boston called Whoop. They basically make a Fitbit for elite athletes. I want to combine athletics and mechanical engineering, so [I worked] on their mechanical team, helping to test out the product that they have.