Rowers go for the orange in Sydney
Princeton has been serving as home base for about 50 men training for rowing events in the Summer 2000 Olympics. Of the eight U.S. boats slated for the men's competition Sept. 17-24 near Sydney, Australia, four will be manned by rowers who trained right here in the University's backyard for the past four years.
In addition to providing facilities for the rowers, Princeton has furnished some of the talent. Two of the coaches have Princeton connections, plus three of the rowers and two of the alternates are alumni and a current student.
Princeton's strong rowing tradition, along with its excellent facilities and supportive environment, are what drew the Olympians to Lake Carnegie, according to Curtis Jordan, coach of this year's Olympic lightweight coxless four and of Olympic rowing teams in 1988, 1992 and 1996.
"The first advantage is that it's an ideal body of water to row on. It's extremely reliable," said Jordan, who also coaches the University's men's heavyweight crew team. Because the lake is private, rowers don't have to share the water with other boat traffic. A fully-buoyed course can remain in place during the entire training season.
"But the biggest advantage is the warmth of the community," Jordan continued. "The University has been extremely supportive and open with us. The town has been a marvelous place for our athletes to live the last four years. Many of them have bought homes here. All of them have jobs in the area. They've made it a home for themselves, not just a temporary training spot."
That community connection was evident on Aug. 22, when some 500 supporters turned out for a send-off to wish the teams well at the Lake Carnegie finish line.
For rower Paul Teti, a Princeton senior majoring in sociology, the assistance of the University has been vital. He decided to take a year off from school beginning this past January to train for the Olympics.
"I talked extensively with my coaches but, more importantly, with Associate Dean (Richard) Williams and also Professor (Thomas) Espenshade in the sociology department," he said. "I was a little bit nervous. I only had one semester of school left. But they were both very encouraging and saw this as an opportunity for me not just as an athlete, but as a person and a student. After talking to them. I was reassured about going ahead with it."
The athletes trained twice a day, at 7 a.m. and at 6 p.m., rowing about 12 miles in the morning and 10 miles in the evening. In between times, they held down jobs to supplement the small stipend they received from U. S. Rowing.
Teti worked in Princeton's Visitor and Conference Services office for the last four summers.
"It's probably the only job I could have had where I was able to train twice a day, seven days a week and keep it," he says. "A lot of people at the University have helped me out, and I'm hoping that representing the United States at the Olympics gives me a chance to give a little bit back to those people."
The University reaps some other benefits from having the Olympic athletes nearby, according to Jordan.
"It's a great deal for us to have this caliber of athlete around for our athletes to model themselves after," he said.
Having Olympic level coaches working as Princeton coaches also pays dividends for the teams, Teti said. Princeton's men's and women's crew teams have won at least one national championship for 14 consecutive years.
"The Princeton rowing teams have some of the best coaches in the world," he said. "Curtis Jordan has prepared me extremely well. Just the competitive atmosphere and the support he's given me to get to the next level have been tremendous."
Teti's brother Mike is a four-time Olympic rower who spent much of the 1990s as Princeton's freshman crew coach. Now he's the coach of the men's eight, considered by many the premier event in the Olympic rowing competition.
The men's eight is a "sweep" event, meaning each rower has one oar. As implied, there are eight rowers, as well as a coxswain who steers the boat and directs the crew.
The Princeton-based men's eight has won world championships for three consecutive years, and is considered the team to beat at the Olympics. The crew includes Chris Ahrens, a 1998 Princeton graduate, and Tom Welsh, a 1999 Princeton graduate. Ahrens has been on the three world championship men's eight teams and Welsh has been on two.
Mike Teti also coaches two other Olympic sweep boats, the men's coxless four and the men's coxless pair, out of Princeton.
Paul Teti will be a member of the lightweight coxless four, the sweep event coached by Curtis Jordan. The coxless boat is steered by one of the rowers, who controls a small rudder with a foot pedal. Team members must average 70 kilos (about 155 pounds) to qualify for the lightweight category. All of the Olympic rowing events measure 2,000 meters.
Kevin Cotter, a 1996 Princeton graduate, is an alternate for the lightweight coxless four, while Sean Kammann, a 1998 Princeton graduate, is an alternate for the lightweight double scull. In a "scull" event, each rower has two oars. Most of the U.S. scull teams (single, double and quadruple) train out of Augusta, Ga., except for the men's lightweight double scull, which is based in Boston.
Princeton also will be represented in the women's rowing events by Liane Bennion-Nelson, Class of 1995, who has been training in San Diego. She will be part of the women's eight team.
In addition, Morgan Crooks, Class of 1998, and Tom Herschmiller, a Princeton senior, will participate in the Canada's men's eight.