“One Terrible Stroke” Ended the Olympics For the United States Men’s Quad
July 30, 2012
LONDON – They made the necessary changes in their race plan, adjustments designed to get the United States men’s quad off the line and into a position of success.
And it was working.
Sprinting out of the blocks with the rest of the boats in this morning’s repechage, Elliot Hovey (Manchester-By-The-Sea, Mass.), Peter Graves (Cincinnati, Ohio), Alex Osborne (Sherman Oaks, Calif.) and Wes Piermarini (West Brookfield, Mass.) were in the pack with New Zealand, Italy, and Switzerland. Much better than they did in their opening heat.
And then disaster struck at 350-meters into the first quarter of the course at Eton Dorney.
Piermarini, a veteran sculler and 2008 Olympian, who was rowing in the bow of the boat, dug his blade into the water where it got stuck, and brought the boat to a dead stop.
“We had a great start; we were right with the field, right where we wanted to be, and then I got a massive boat-stopping crab, put us down about a length and a half,” Piermarini said. Without much thought or discussion in the boat, the four men restarted the race and went after the crews in front of them.
It was without question a herculean effort. Sprinting at more than 40 strokes a minute and with everything they had, the U.S. men closed the gap, rowing the second fastest 500 meter sprint on the second quarter, the fastest split in the third quarter, and pushing within an inch of the Swiss at the line.
But it was not enough.
For Piermarini, Osborne, Graves and Hovey, the Olympics came to an abrupt end. They finished fourth, in 5:45.62 behind the Swiss who rowed a 5:44.90. New Zealand won in 5:43.82 followed by Italy in 5:44.57.
For what seemed like forever, three of the crew sat with arms draped across their oars, while Hovey buried his head into his arms. It was not what they had come to do and like Piermarini, it was Hovey’s second Olympics without a final.
While bowed in the boat on the water, the crew docked and regrouped and then talked about what they felt was the race of their lives.
“From there on, we had the race of our lives. For the next 1,500 (meters), we came down the track at a 40 (strokes per minute). I’m not positive about the splits, but I’m pretty sure we had the fastest second, fastest third five hundred and then the second fastest last five hundred (meter splits). Honestly, minus that crab, it was the race of my life. So I can’t be too disappointed, even through I’m pretty darn disappointed.
“We went out there and just gave it everything. I just had one terrible stroke. ,” Piermarini said.
“The conditions were a little bit rough, but we’ve certainly practiced in rougher. It’s not like it was the worst conditions ever. It’s just one bad stroke that cost us our entire race. It’s tough, because you have a race like that and you realize that we actually do have some speed and it doesn’t really show when you come in last in the regatta. I don’t feel like I’m the worst person here.”
It’s a hard way to end a race that they had trained together so long for. But there was no giving up.
Said Hovey – “Right there, we had the opportunity to roll over and die and we said absolutely not, not today. You guys are not getting off easy, and we’re going to come and get it. And that’s exactly what we did.
“We did a start again. We went right to a 41 (strokes per minute), and it came naturally. Everyone was on the same page. We moved right through; we were catching it. We could taste it. It got a little ragged at the end, but we went for it and we just fell short.
“I couldn’t be any more pleased with the crew and the performance that was done by the guys around me and I would not have chosen to row with another group of guys, and I mean that sincerely,” Hovey said.
“People can say we failed, but there are five guys that know it wasn’t a failure – the four of us, and Cam (Kiosoglous). The result has a number on it and the number is not good, but I know we did the best we could. We left it out there. Everyone did.”
Still, through all the pridem their emotions were evident.
“It was unfortunate the way it worked out in the end, but I’m very proud of us as a group the way we were able to adjust from the heat and adjust from the boat-stopping crab after the first minute there,” Orsborne said.
“That, in my opinion, is an excuse for the race to be over right then, and as a group, we kept going and came very close.”
But when it ended, the finality of it all struck Osborne.
“Right away, it kind of hit me. The regatta is over for us and it’s a terrible feeling. You cross the line and aside from the pain in my legs and forearms, I was overcome with just a pit in my stomach that we were done racing. It’s tough, it’s really tough because the three other guys in this boat, we worked so hard for each other. We wanted to keep going, we wanted two more races. But like I said, I am proud of the way we competed in the end.”
For 2012 Olympic Games news, features and daily quotes from Team USA athletes, coaches, staff and family members, visit http://www.usrowing.org/Pressbox/2012Olympics.aspx.
Ed Moran, photos by Ed Hewitt, row2k Media