Monday, August 15, 2016

Silver For Gevvie

There are two kinds of great sporting events.

The first is filled with drama as the outcome isn't decided until the very last second. That would be Usain Bolt's win in the 100 last night at the Olympics in Rio.

The second is when there is a performance - team or individual - that is simply legendary.

That one would be the other night with Katie Ledecky in the 800 freestyle. You probably saw it, and you probably know exactly what TB means.

TigerBlog will get back to Ledecky in a minute. And Bolt later in the week, though he will say that Bolt seems to be one of the most likeable athletes of all time. And one of the best.

Meanwhile, back at the pool, now that the swimming is over at the Olympics, TB has a few last comments.

First, Michael Phelps actually comes across as a pretty good, gracious sportsman. As someone so astutely told TigerBlog recently, it's not his fault the media gushes over him. That's actually what tortures TB about the whole Phelps phenomenon.

Yeah. Yeah. He has a mother. And a baby. Is there no one in the TV truck to say "maybe we've shown his mother enough?" And what in the world would lead someone trying to be a credible reporter to ask Phelps "what do you want Boomer to know about his father as he grows up?"

It's not Phelps' fault.

Second, TigerBlog's favorite American male swimmer is Nathan Adrian. He seems like a happy sort. And he looks like Sam Gravitte of Princeton's men's lacrosse team.

Lastly, there is Ledecky.

She won the 800 by 12 seconds, which by the way, is more than two seconds longer than it took Bolt to win the 100 last night. So yeah, 12 seconds. That's an eternity. And this is against the best swimmers in the world. They weren't even in the picture on TV when Ledecky touched the wall.

She destroyed the world record. She swam to a quick lead and then just kept getting stronger and stronger.

By the middle of the race, it was clear that this was something special. By the end, it was one of the greatest performances TigerBlog had ever seen from any athlete in any setting.

Phelps won five gold medals in Rio. Ledecky won four.

Phelps now has 23 Olympic gold medals, as well as three silvers and two bronze. He won a silver medal (in a three-way tie for second) in the 100 butterfly, and afterwards he was very respectful and very humble. It was great to see.

For some athletes, nothing short of gold is okay. For others, any medal will mean the fulfillment of a lifetime's dream.

TigerBlog has seen athlete after athlete in Rio who reacts to second or third in the same way as first. Yes, getting to the Olympics in the first place is huge. Yes, making it to a final is even bigger, and that's an accomplishment that will last a lifetime, regardless of where they finish.

But getting a medal? That pushes it over the top. And really, it's any medal.

Princeton has sent 13 athletes to the Games in Rio. Of those 13, six are left competing, and five will be competing today.

It starts around 9:30 this morning, when Donn Cabral runs in the 3,000 meter steeplechase heats. Four years ago in London Cabral reached the final, finishing eighth. That wasn't good enough for a medal, but that was still an amazing feat.

Next up will be the field hockey quarterfinals, as the U.S. - with Princeton alums Katie Reinprecht, Julia Reinprecht and Kat Sharkey - against the Germans, starting at 11:30. It wraps up with Ashleigh Johnson and the U.S. women's water polo team against Brazil in the quarterfinals at 1:10. All of that is Eastern Time, by the way.

Tomorrow will see Diana Matheson and the Canadian women's soccer team against Germany in the semifinals. Brazil and Sweden will play in the other semifinal.

As for the rest of the Princeton contingent, they have finished their competition in Rio. So far, Princeton has one medal in the bank.

And it came from Gevvie Stone.

TigerBlog saw the race twice, once in the morning and then again when it was replayed later on. The live streaming, by the way, continues to be one of the very, very best parts of the Olympics.

Stone won silver in the women's single sculls rowing. That's 2,000 meters, with nobody out there but you.

Australia's Kimberly Brennan was the winner. Stone made a huge push at the end to close the gap on Brennan and pull away from the rest of the field to finish solidly in second.

Stone's story is a great one.

She was a member of that incredible Princeton women's open boat in 2006 that crushed everyone to win the NCAA title and has since produced four Olympians and three medalists - Stone, along with two-time gold medalist Caroline Lind and silver medalist Andreanna Morin (Kate Bertko was the fourth Olympian).

Stone comes from a rowing family, as her mother rowed in the 1976 Olympics and her father would have rowed in 1980 had it not been for the boycott.

Gevvie Stone barely missed making the U.S. team in 2008 and then qualified for the 2012 Olympics in London, where she finished seventh, winning the B final.

This time, she was back, but she was back as Dr. Gevvie Stone, having finished her studies at Tufts University medical school. And in this, her final Olympic run, she came back with silver.

Can you imagine the feeling? This is a grueling event. Just you and your boat. And 2,000 meters that at some point must feel like 2,000 miles.

TigerBlog can't imagine how many actual miles Stone has rowed as a competitor. And how many training sessions she had, how many times her muscles had to be burning, how many times she had to think "is this really worth it?"

And contrast that with what she must have been feeling for the final 200 meters, 100 meters, 50 meters in Saturday's race. And what must have gone through her head as she strained to reach the finish line.

She was all smiles in the medal ceremony. Why wouldn't she be?

Her performance in Rio is one of the great Olympic moments Princeton has ever had. To win a medal in that race?

And to have someone do it who was an NCAA champ and who continued to train for the Olympics while becoming a doctor?

Does anyone who has ever competed at Princeton more encapsulate what Princeton Athletics strives for than Gevvie Stone.

NCAA champ. Doctor. Olympic silver medalist.

There's not much more to say about her, other than "wow."

And congratulations.


Unknown said...

"Wow" to this article. Thank you TB! I'm very proud to be a tiger!!! And, I gained a ton from my four years at Princeton.

Unknown said...

"Wow" to your article TB. Thank you! I'm very proud to be a tiger!!! And, I gained a ton from my four years in the wonderful orange bubble!