Rowing for Gold in the London Olympics
Published 30 July 2012 | ASSIST News Service
As the world watches with rapt attention the opening ceremonies of the 2012 London Olympic Games, Tim Stafford, senior writer for 'Christianity Today', will be among the proud parents with a son or daughter competing in the Olympics.
Stafford's son Silas is a strapping 6ft 4in tall, 200 lb, US Olympic rower, partnering with Tom Peszek.
According to NBCOlympics.com, Silas was a track runner in high school and did not row until his freshman year at the University of California, Los Angeles.
The sports website says: "His legs slowed as he grew, and his sister suggested rowing as a new competitive sport. Just two years later, in 2006, he won gold in the four at the Head of the Charles Regatta, an achievement he still considers among his best. He made his first national team in 2007 when he rowed with the eight in the World Rowing Under 23 Championships."
The NBC Olympics website says Stafford transferred to Stanford University to join their varsity program.
"In 2008, he returned to the World Rowing Under 23 Championships. His eight boat won gold. After graduating from Stanford, he attended Cambridge University, where he earned a Master of Philosophy. When he rowed at Cambridge, the British Press referred to Stafford as 'The Boy with the Golden Ticket.' In 2010, he finished fifth in the four at the World Rowing Championships."
At the 2012 US Olympic Trials for qualified small boats, Stafford and Tom Peszek won the pair and a trip to London for the 2012 Olympic Games.
NBC says that when Stafford isn't rowing, he likes to cycle, backpack, and write songs. He also keeps a blog www.getsomesilas.blogspot.com .
"Before races, he eats granola and Gu energy gels," the NBC site says of Silas.
"His high school track coach and his brother have been influential in his athletic career. His most memorable sporting achievements include his performance at the Head of the Charles, running a 4:26-minute mile in high school, and winning silver with the eight at the International Collegiate Rowing championships in 2007. That list will surely feature a new addition after the London Games."
In a Tuesday, July 17, post to his Blog titled: "Overwhelmed with excitement ," Stafford says: "Just a quick post to say that I am safely in London, and am quite overwhelmed with the awesomeness of this event.
"It's difficult to articulate how big it is, and I totally underestimated how much bigger than a world championship it would feel. I'll probably mostly just repost articles while I am here, and will be on twitter a fair bit on @snstafford.
Stafford writes: "A few quick observations while I am writing - the volunteers are unnervingly friendly. I've had more English people smile at me in a few hours than I did in a full year living here. I suspect they were trained to overcome their natural reserve, and are perhaps overdoing it a bit. It's refreshing and encouraging though, and I'm not complaining. There must have been a staff of 100 people at the airport just to facilitate us getting off our plane, getting our luggage, and getting through customs to our bus.
"It is difficult to explain how much gear I was given today by the great capitalists of America. Imagine going to a Nike outlet and taking one of everything. Then go next door to Ralph Lauren and take one of everything there too. Then go get fitted for a suit. Then go to the jewelry store and pick out a watch and a ring. Then go to the drugstore and get a big bag of every male grooming product in the known world. Sunglasses. Finally, come back to your room to find a few extra presents waiting for you. All told, two large duffel bags, two backpacks, two suit bags stuffed to the brim with free gear. Totally overwhelming," Stafford says.
"Everything: the food, the facilities, the security, seems amazing. This may change in the coming days, but for now it is nice to be blown away."
In his most recent post, Stafford says: "We're settling into a bit of a training rhythm here in London. It's still very exciting though."
Ed Godfrey, sports writer for NewsOk.com, says that when Tom Peszek and Stafford were not selected for the United States' men's eight man with coxswain Olympic crew, their pride was hurt.
"The two rowers who train in Oklahoma City just missed the cut for the boat that is rowed prominently by collegiate programs around the country," he said.
"We had spent the past six or seventh months trying to make the eight," Peszek said. "We were the last two guys not selected. It was kind of a crushing moment for both of us."
"I definitely felt I deserved to be in there," said Stafford. "I understand the coaches' perspective, but I definitely think they made the wrong decision. It's not fun to get cut ever."
However, says Godfrey, the two rowers turned their disappointment into motivation and won the Olympic trials in the men's pair, each earning their first berth to the Olympic Games.
While training for the men's pair the past two months, the Oklahoma City rowers would "remind each other we were passed over and we would use that to fire ourselves up a little bit", Peszek said.
"Making the two-man crew we had to win. We had to win the trials to make the boat. It wasn't a matter of convincing the coach we were good. It wasn't a matter of the coach picking us. We had to go out and win. It was really satisfying to actually go out and do that."
Peszek, 27, a native of Michigan, was one of the first rowers to move to Oklahoma City and begin training in the Boathouse District on the Oklahoma River.
A former collegiate rower at the University of Michigan, Peszek aspired to make the US National Team after leaving Ann Arbor.
Stafford, 24, rowed for UCLA before transferring to Stanford's powerhouse programme. He moved to Oklahoma City to train at the urging of Peszek, Godfrey reported.
Stafford was a track standout in high school, running the mile in a personal best four minutes, 26 seconds. He turned to rowing in college because he wanted to continue to compete, the sports reporter wrote.
"Now, he will be competing on the world's biggest stage, the Olympic Games," Godfrey explained.
"This is the pinnacle of rowing," Stafford said. "For everyone there, it's kind of do or die. There is no next year for the Olympics. Obviously, the intensity is going to be much higher than it is at other (international) races."
Godfrey says Stafford wasn't a kid who always dreamed of making the Olympics, but winning the Olympic Trials left him with feeling of elation and vindication because he was passed over for the prestigious eight-man boat.
"I've gotten hundreds of emails and phone calls from old friends and people I haven't talked to in years (since making the Olympic)," Stafford said. "It's been pretty cool."
Godfrey went on to say that the first time Stafford and Peszek actually raced in a men's pair event was during the Olympic Trials. They admit they will be a dark horse at the Olympic Games in London.
"We are kind of in the shadows a little bit," Peszek said. "It's kind of nice because I don't think there are very many expectations for us."