BOSTON (Reuters) - When U.S. rowing hopeful Genevra “Gevvie” Stone dips her oars into the waters of Lucerne, Switzerland, this weekend she will try to fulfil an Olympic dream that was left in tatters four years ago as well as continue a family tradition.
Stone, the top-ranked U.S. female single skuller, narrowly missed a spot in the 2008 U.S. team for Beijing - the kind of disappointment that can end a sporting career. At that point, Stone was a recent graduate of Princeton University concentrating almost entirely on making the team
Now 26, the rower has for two years fit a gruelling training regime around medical school - rowing on Boston’s Charles River at the crack of dawn, going to the gym or home for a nap before classes at Tufts University School of Medicine.
A native of the Boston suburb of Newton, Stone is a popular three-time winner of the famed “Head of the Charles” regatta held each October - the largest two-day rowing competition in the world.
As the Olympics draw closer, Stone peaked at the right time at U.S. Rowing’s national selection regatta in Chula Vista, California, in April.
She covered the 2,000-meter course in seven minutes, 32 seconds to punch her ticket to the final Olympic qualifying regatta in Lucerne, which runs from May 20-23. The prize of the London Olympics is now just a few races away.
Young Gevvie Stone was an athletic girl who tried out various sports in high school, including lacrosse, but over time was drawn into the family “business.”
Stone’s mother, then Lisa Hansen, rowed for the U.S. at the 1976 Montreal Olympics in the women’s coxed quadruple skulls, coming in seventh.
Her father Gregg had his Olympic dreams dashed. Like his daughter he narrowly missed qualifying in his first shot at the Olympic team, in 1976. In 1980, stronger and more experienced, Stone was the top-ranked U.S. men’s single skuller - but missed the Moscow Games because of the U.S. team’s boycott.
“They love that one of their children gets to experience the same things that they did, and feels passionately about the sport that means so much to them,” Stone told Reuters.
Gregg Stone leads the informal team of coaches advising his daughter. Lisa Stone was Gevvie’s first coach, at Boston-area girls prep school, The Winsor School, but now concentrates on doling out motherly and worldly advice and support.
At six feet tall and about 157 pounds, Stone is relatively light for a world-class female rower - too small to row in a crew of eight, but well suited to a single boat.
“In a single you can adapt your rowing style to what best suits you. Personally, I rely on my good technique as one of my relative strengths. Power is one of my relative weaknesses,” she said. “My strength in the single is boat feel.”
The final word on Stone’s training plans comes from her father, and recently has focused on intensity more than sheer volume, as dictated by the needs of event.
“Rowing a 2,000-meter race is like running the 800-meters. It’s not a sprint, but you can’t really pace yourself. It’s in that rough, weird borderline between a power sport and an endurance sport,” she said.
The best coaching advice ever received, Stone said, had nothing to do with stroke cadence or reps in the gym.
“My dad said, if you don’t like it every day for two weeks, then you should probably think about stopping. Everyone has a bad practice, a day or two when they think ‘Oh my god, why am I doing this?’ I’ve never gone more than two or three days when I didn’t want to do this.”
Stone, who currently works as a research assistant in the Orthopedic Biomechanics Lab at Massachusetts General Hospital, said the mental discipline of medical school has been a good complement to the physicality of her training.
“My brain has so much energy but the rest of me does not. Physically my legs feel shot a lot of the time but my brain is not.”
Reporting By Ros Krasny. Editing by Patrick Johnston