Michaela Copenhaver


Michaela Copenhaver is an American rower competing in the Lightweight division.

She started rowing in 2003 and continued at University where she competed at two National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) championships and one Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) championship.

In her senior year she set a Sprints course record and won an IRA silver medal as stroke seat of the lightweight varsity eight.

More recent results have included:

* Senior Lightweight Women’s Single Semi­-final, and first place in the Senior Women’s Quad at Royal Canadian Henley Regatta, 2012

* First place in Women’s Open Quad, Head of the American, 2012

* Fourth place in the Open Lightweight Women’s Quad at Sydney International Rowing Regatta, 2013 ­

* Tenth place in the­ Lightweight Women’s Single,­ National Selection Regatta, 2013

* Second place in the Lightweight Women’s Quad, World Championship Trials, 2013 ­

* First American in Lightweight Women’s Single US Rowing National Championships 2014, where she also achieved 1st place in the Lightweight Women’s Quad

* Lightweight Women’s Single ­second place, Independence Day Regatta, 2014

* Lighweight womens’ quad, 4th at the World Championships, 2018

* Lightweight women’s quad, at the World Championships, 2019, 4th again.

She has also broken the world record for 10,000 metres indoor rowing for her category – although this was an accident!  Read more here.

In 2015 she won two national titles at the U.S. Rowing Elite National Championships, in the Lightweight Women’s Quad and the Lightweight Women’s Double. She also took a second place finish at the World Championship Trials in the Womens’s Quad in June 2015.  In 2018 she competed again at the World Rowing Championships and her team finished fourth in the quadruple sculls (results here).

Finding vegan

Michaela has been a vegan since age 22 (2012), and vegetarian since 2010.

“Initially, I just wanted to eat more vegetables. Those things are super good for you, and they’re delicious. Being vegetarian and vegan made me more conscious of how many servings I was getting a day (or not).” 

“I was travelling for a regatta in fall of 2012. I had been vegetarian for 1.5 years already, but relied pretty heavily on dairy and eggs. While I was travelling, I was bouncing from couch to couch and had no way to safely store dairy or eggs—so I decided to try a week without them. I felt great, and it wasn’t nearly as scary as I thought. I’ve been vegan ever since.”

“Once I stopped eating and using animals, though, I felt I could finally address a question that had been bothering me for a long time—what right do we have to exploit other creatures? Now, I understand that we have no right, and my motivations are primarily ethical.”

Unfounded concerns

While Michaela’s successes speak for themselves, she has not always had coaches that support her approach.

“My first post-collegiate coach pressured me to consume crazy amounts of protein, and was generally unsupportive of my diet. I’ve since moved clubs, and found a group that’s really on board with my veganism. Many of my teammates have switched to non-dairy milk, one girl bought tofu for the first time, and one of my boatmates cooks from our vegan cookbooks every day. My new coach has also been very supportive by making sure he gets me to a grocery store during travel days and booking hotels with fridges and microwaves.”

What does she eat?

It seems that Michaela’s approach isn’t complex, when we asked her what she eats a lot of, we had a simple answer.

“Vegetables! And oatmeal. We buy oatmeal in 50 pound bags and my husband and I easily finish a portion meant for a family of four.”

While travelling she often looks for rice and steamed vegetables.

With such a lot of successes, it may be hard to pick a highlight, but Michaela did mention winning the regional title in the senior year of college and setting the course record.

“Now, training on a individual level, I’m proud of every practice I complete. Training is hard work!”  This meant there were other goals.

“I’m currently training to make the U.S. National Team, with the ultimate goal of representing the U.S. at the Olympic Games. There are only two spots on the Olympic roster for lightweight women, so I’m going to need a lot of veggie power to get me there!” she said in 2017.

She made the national squad for the next two years, and competed in the lightweigh women’s quad at the World Championships, finished fourth on both occasions.

Michaela’s Twitter, @lightweighteats


Vegan success in the boat

Michaela’s bio on US rowing

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