Thursday, November 1, 2012

RR Interview: 2012 Olympian and former Princeton Tiger Gevvie Stone of Cambridge Boat Club

Gevvie Stone in Bled, 2011 (Photo: B. Kitch)
Not only has Gevvie Stone accumulated quite a resume on the water, she’s no slouch in the classroom either. The eight-time (yes, eight-time) winner of the Head Of The Charles capped off an Olympic year that saw her take seventh overall in the women’s single with her third consecutive title in the women’s champ single on the Chuck. Now, she has her sights set on more than just Rio: Stone is a medical student, whose goals for the next Olympic cycle include graduating from her program at Tufts University in 2014. Here, Stone shares a little about her background in the sport, her time at Princeton, her experience in London, and just how she manages to keep climbing the podium on her home course – the bottom line? There's no substitute for experience.

RR: If my research is correct, this year marked the eighth time you've won the Head Of The Charles, including winning the top women's sculling event for three years running. I know it's your home course, but what else is there that helps you to achieve such an amazing level of success on the Charles?

GS: You are indeed correct in your arithmetic. And, as a 27 year old, this was my 27th year attending the regatta! (It was cancelled in 1996.) The regatta is somewhat like Christmas in my family, and I think part of my success at the HOCR is that I love everything about the regatta--the turns and bridges, the time of year, the cheering, the longer distance (v. 2k racing), etc. It's special to have such an event on my home river, where I learned to row and where I train now. Additionally, I have been fortunate to be part of fast, fit crews and to have good coaches and coxswains. All of that helped me to be successful in team boats at the regatta. In the single, I have benefitted from my knowledge of the course, my hometown support from friends and family, my mental preparation for the race, and my endurance (a relative strength of mine).

RR: Last year, you raced to an eleventh place finish in Bled, and, this past summer, continually built upon your results, moving through the Final Qualification Regatta to a seventh place finish in London. How much do you think the international racing experience you had from previous years, as well as the World Cup circuit this year, added to your ability to bring it on race day in Eton Dorney?

GS: The single is a technical and mental boat in addition to requiring strength, power, and fitness. I think that time in general – time both training and racing – helped me to continue to get faster over this last cycle. The miles on the water, hours in the weight room, and experiences on the start line all add up. All that time helped me to get stronger both physically and mentally and, in doing that, helped me to become faster. Also, I keep learning and have tried some new things this year that seemed to work – a winter on the water in San Diego, new oars, etc. As for the international race experiences in particular, they taught me invaluable lessons by exposing my weaknesses and my strengths. They also helped me to be mentally and emotionally prepared for my Olympic final.

RR: While you graduated from Princeton in 2007, you are still, in some ways, a 'student athlete,' as you are pursuing a medical degree at Tufts. How have you managed to build a schedule for yourself that balances such a demanding work schedule with your athletic endeavors? Any advice to junior and collegiate level student-athletes out there?

GS: Haha, I have pretty much made a(n) (unpaid) career out of being a "student-athlete". I got started in high school, and here I am now a "few" years later building on the same concept. I find that the mental and physical challenges balance each other quite well. When I am exhausted from a workout, I can concentrate more easily on the books. When my head feels congested with information, I can relax on the water and release my aggression on the oars. If I focus too much on side of the balance, I find myself over-thinking things. Practicing both allows me a daily chance to step away, reassess, and return re-energized. But it's not always a perfectly easy balance. Sometimes, I wonder why I try to extend myself into both areas. It requires time-management skills, dedication, and a love for both. It's hard and sometimes my social life is what suffers.

RR: While at Princeton, you won an NCAA title in the women's varsity eight. How much influence on your rowing career do you feel your experience at Princeton had, being a key part of one of the most competitive programs in the country? Do you still draw on those years at Princeton in your international racing career?

GS: Princeton Rowing – the team and my coaches (Wendy and Lori) – taught me countless lessons about life and, of course, about rowing. I think most importantly, I learned to be tough. Rowing on a top team with dedicated teammates and coaches who constantly challenged the team made me a fighter. That lesson is something I apply every time I am on the water – whether I'm doing side-by-side pieces or simply doing steady state and racing some unaware high school boat. Another thing I learned that I apply frequently is that my fitness and strength respond well to many shorter, high-intensity workouts. A significant amount of my training plan – especially during erg season – is lifted from workouts we did in college. Oh, one last good one is to continue focusing on technique and not to be lazy while paddling. It really helps to apply technical changes. I could go on, but I don't want to spill any more of Lori's coaching secrets. All the junior girls out there will just have to go to Princeton to find out how much you can learn!

RR: What are you plans for the next Olympic cycle? Are your sights already set on Rio? Given your results at the Charles (another victory in the women's champ single, and a near miss in the women's champ eight with the 'Great Eight' you helped to assemble), it certainly seems that way!

GS: My first goal is to graduate from med school in 2014. Along the way these next two years, I am going to see how much training I can fit in. If all goes well, I would love to continue racing through Rio 2016. I still love rowing, and I'm continuing to get faster; consequently, I don't feel ready to retire.

Thanks very much to Gevvie for taking the time! One further note for RR readers – Gevvie was largely responsible for putting together the women's Great Eight at the HOCR this year (read about it in the November edition of Rowing Magazine), and was one ten second penalty away from becoming a nine-time Charles champ! All best to Gevvie in all her endeavors from everyone here at RowingRelated! 

-RR

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