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Shell Game

Rowers come in all ages



Eve Green (82), a coxswain, has won the prestigious Head of the Charles Regatta several times.

Photo by Douglas Foulke

When rowers describe their passion for the sport, they are emotionally intense. They talk about how the experience feels almost like “flying” on the water.

Rowing, one of the first competitive Olympic sports, has been a spectator sport since the 19th century and it remains a challenging physical activity for any age. Whether it’s alone or in a team of eight, these athletes thrive on the adrenaline rush of powering their way through the water.

Wilton resident Margaret Manley, a senior at Greenwich Academy who recently received a rowing scholarship to the University of Virginia, rows at Saugatuck Rowing Club in Westport. She says the more you give the sport, the more you get from it. “It seems unnatural to be in a shell in the middle of a body of water being in sync with other people,” she explains. “I like it though, because it gives me purpose. It’s a huge time commitment, but it’s worth it.”

Her teammate, Wilton High School senior Amra Sobovic, will be rowing next year for Northeastern University. She has loved everything about the sport since she started rowing her freshman year. For many school-age kids, the average weekly practice is two to three hours most nights, year round. Amra has missed a few school dances, but for her, the rowing experience is priceless. 

“Rowing helps you learn about yourself,” she says. “If you have a goal, how hard do you have to push to get there?”

At Norwalk River Rowing Association (NRRA), coach Yuri Kolomiets teaches adults and children. Now 62 years old, he began his career with a canoeing championship in the former Soviet Union. He recommends beginners start with scull rowing instead of sweep rowing. (Scullers have one oar in each hand; sweepers have both hands on one oar.) He says the real key to technical excellence is saving your energy. Minimize your load but maximize your speed and you’ll get more forward thrust from the boat. “It’s a little easier to teach a young brain,” Kolomiets says of the difference between age groups. “Adults are more cautious. Kids jump in with no fear.”

Rowing is not just for the young. Eve Green, 82, (pictured above) has been rowing for 20 years at Saugatuck. After retiring from teaching, she needed something else to occupy her time. A friend asked her to “cox” or steer her team’s boat at Saugatuck. She did, and has been hooked ever since. “I’m a real convert to rowing,” she says with a laugh. “It’s physically demanding. I train three to four times a week. I’m probably in as good a shape as anyone out there!”

Green has won––several times––the renowned Head of the Charles Regatta, a race that takes place in October on the Charles River between Boston and Cambridge.

Susan Bauerfeld, a psychologist in Wilton, has been rowing for two and a half years. At 54, she feels great. She caught the rowing bug from her son Gregory, a senior vying for a spot at Syracuse University. “Staying in sync is so critically important,” she says. “It’s all about the next stroke. I can’t take the time to think about the last one.”

One can row at any age, but it is both a physical and emotional workout. Rowing a 2,000-meter race has been equated to playing two basketball games back to back in six minutes. And certainly, if you can’t lift the boat or get in and out of it, you can’t row. But rowing requires mental endurance too. That element for Anne Faber, who coached with Yuri Kolomiets for a season, was a deeply personal one. Faber, 70, started rowing 20 years ago, when her husband was killed by a drunk driver. With two kids to raise and a high stress job on Wall Street, she needed an outlet.

“I see rowing as saving my life,” she says. “I was a dancer and rowing feels like dancing. It’s very Zen. I race. I see my times improve. It’s control over my body.” 

If you need your own outlet, Saugatuck and NRRA are not the only options. In Norwalk, Maritime Rowing Club is open to all ages, and the Connecticut Boat Club serves girls in the 9th through 12th grades. 


FAMOUS ROWERS
Actors Edward Norton, Gregory Peck and Hugh Laurie; Dr. Benjamin Spock, photographer Edward Snowden and Dracula author Bram Stoker.

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