A Pair of Olympic Men
June 14, 2012
WEST WINDSOR, N.J. – Being the last pair cut from the men’s eight camp was a crushing blow to the Olympic dreams of Silas Stafford (Santa Rosa, Calif.) and Tom Peszek (Farmington Hills, Mich.).
But after three years of hard training and ups and downs on the United States men’s rowing team, they were not about to just accept their fate and walk away.
“We were at the meeting where we got cut, we were the last two that got cut, and as we were walking away, we were obviously disappointed and Tom turned to me and said, ‘Do you want to row the pair,” Stafford said. “And I said sure.”
Today, it appears to have been the right choice as the USRowing Training Center – Oklahoma City crew defeated the three other boats from the 14 crews that came to Mercer Lake in West Windsor, N.J., to row in the 2012 Olympic Trials – Rowing in a last attempt to make the team that will race in London.
They were the last crew to be named to the Olympic team today, pending final approval from the United States Olympic Committee after winning their respective events. Earlier in the day, three athletes were named to the team in the men’s single sculls and women’s pair.
Sara Hendershot (West Simsbury, Conn.) and Sarah Zelenka (Itasca, Ill.) earned berths to the team after winning in the women’s pair. Also named to the team was Beijing Olympian Ken Jurkowski (New Fairfield, Conn.), who won the men’s single sculls.
Leading through much of the race and rowing in a stiff headwind, Stafford and Peszek crossed the finish line ahead of the USRowing Training Center crew of Michael Gennaro, (Havertown, Pa.) and Ty Otto (Seattle, Wash.) and the California Rowing Club crews of Ryan Monaghan (Pittsford, N.Y.) and Deaglan McEachern (Portsmouth, N.H.) and Brandon Shald and Brad Bertoldo (San Jose, Calif.) to win in a time of 7:14.988.
“When we crossed the line, I kind of let out a barbaric yawp,” Stafford said. “That was three years of suffering that’s been sitting down in my belly and finally just needed to come out.
“I’m really looking forward to this. You hear so many stories about the Olympics. It’s a Disney Land kind of place. I have no idea what it’s going to be like, but I’m sure it’s going to be an incredible experience.”
It continued to come out as the celebration extended to the recovery dock. Usually a team takes some time to cool down before returning to the boat house, but the victorious pair rowed quickly back to the dock, jumped out of their shell and embraced in back slapping celebration.
Stafford surprised Peszek by picking him up and throwing him into the lake and then jumping in behind him. “I wish he hadn’t done that,” said a laughing Peszek. “I’ve got sunscreen in my eyes now.”
Peszek, who helped qualify the boat at the 2011 World Rowing Championships in Bled, Slovenia last summer, said the win was a gratifying finish to a long year. “We’re feeling good, but we’ve got a lot more speed to find and it’s going to be an adventure to get ourselves up on the podium.”
“So it’s back to the grind,” he said. “It was fun last year and it’s been fun again. I’m starting to make a little home in this event.”
Results are available at www.usrowing.org
To view the photo gallery, visit http://www.usrowing.org/Multimedia/PhotoGalleries/2012USOlyTrials.aspx
The finals of the 2012 Olympic Trials – Rowing will air on June 23 from 6-7:30 p.m. EDT on NBC Sports Network. A record 67.5 hours of event coverage – 43 on NBC Sports Network and 24.5 on NBC – will feature nine sports in addition to rowing – including live primetime coverage of trials for diving, swimming, gymnastics and track & field, as well as events for water polo and field hockey. About USRowing
USRowing is a nonprofit organization recognized by the United States Olympic Committee as the governing body for the sport of rowing in the United States. USRowing’s official suppliers include Boathouse Sports, Vespoli, WinTech, Filippi, Croker Oars, Rudy Project, Concept2, Nielsen Kellerman, PowerHTV and Ludus Tours. USRowing also receives generous support from the National Rowing Foundation and its corporate sponsors and partners ANXeBusiness Corp, Voxer, EZ Dock, EMCVenues, The Perfect SNAQUE and INDi. For more information, visit www.usrowing.org. USRowing has created The Row to London to engage sponsors leading up to the 2012 Olympic Games, with proceeds going to help ensure the U.S. team’s success. Opportunities also exist to partner with America Rows – supporting diversity initiatives and adaptive programs. For more information, please contact Beth Kohl at email@example.com.
Ed Moran - Photos by Monica Worsley