SARASOTA, FLA. (WFLA) — After months of delays, elite rowers hit the waters in Sarasota, Fla., for the first qualification event since the pandemic hit.

One athlete secured a spot in the Tokyo Olympics. Others will head to the next round, aspiring to make Team USA.

For Kara Kohler, it was the culmination of years of hard work. “I feel slightly ill just from all the nerves and excitement leading up to this,” she laughed when asked how she was feeling after securing her ticket to Tokyo.

Kohler was the first to secure a spot on the U.S. Olympic Rowing Team for the summer games, but her journey hasn’t been easy.

Kohler competed in the Olympics in 2012. In 2016, she didn’t make the team. “A lot of emotions. This is the ups and the downs that these past four years have brought,” Kohler said.

The trials brought athletes from all over the country aspiring to qualify for the next round, with hopes of making the U.S. Olympic rowing team, despite the pandemic.

“It’s been a struggle. There have been multiple struggles. Having each other has been the most important thing through all of that,” said Rower Michelle Sechser of her teammate Molly Reckford.

The pair advanced to the Final Olympic Qualification Regatta in May, in Lucerne, Switzerland.

“This is such a dream come true. I’m trying to really just focus on the next step which is Lucerne,” said Reckford.

    Many of the athletes at the trials said they were just happy to compete again. A sign of hope, after nearly a year of delays and uncertainty.