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Vol. LXIV, No. 29
 
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
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(Photo Courtesy of Princeton Crew/Tom Nowak)

CHRISTIAN SOLDIER: Princeton University men’s lightweight rowing star Christian Klein enjoys the moment this June after the Tigers won their second straight Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) national championship. This week, Klein will head to Europe to seek another title as he competes for the U.S. lightweight pair in the U-23 World Championships in Brest, Belarus.

Maturing Into PU Men’s Lightweight Star, Klein Now Rowing for U.S. at U-23 Worlds

Bill Alden

After going through an up-and-down freshman season with the Princeton University men’s lightweight crew team, Christian Klein spent much of the summer of 2008 in the basement of his family’s home.

“I had an ERG (ergometer rowing machine) in my basement and I trained hard over the summer for the first time,” said Klein.

“I ended up getting really fast. We did the fall testing and I was third. It was a wow moment, it made me think maybe I can do this.”

Over his sophomore season, Klein had plenty of wow moments as he became a fixture on a top varsity boat that went undefeated on the way to winning the Eastern Sprints, Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) national championship and the Temple Challenge Cup at the Henley Royal Regatta in England.

“I definitely will remember the older guys, we had four senior rowers and a senior cox,” said Klein, who rowed in the No. 3 seat on that boat.

“All of those guys were good leaders; I learned a lot from them. I looked up to them; all of them were really good people and great to be around.”

This past spring, the Princeton top lightweight boat had another great season as it repeated as champs in the Eastern Sprints and the IRAs. Klein is proud of what the boat accomplished as it dealt with the loss of those five seniors and welcomed a new coach, Marty Crotty.

“We had done well the year before and we wanted to do it again,” said Klein, who moved to the No. 5 seat in the top boat this season. “We were graduating half the boat and getting a new coach and that lessened expectations. We just got back to training hard, rowing hard, and seeing what we could do. The boat had a different feel.”

This week, Klein will be rowing hard as he competes for the U.S. lightweight pair in the U-23 World Championships in Brest, Belarus.

The regatta is Klein’s first international competition for the U.S. and he is fired up for the opportunity.

“It is real exciting; it is one of those things that when I was younger I thought would be great but would never happen,” said Klein, whose U.S. teammates at the regatta will include other Princeton crew members Ariel Frost, Sara Hendershot, Michaela Strand, Nicole Bielawski, Robin Prendes, Steven Cutler, and Ian Silveira while Michael Evans will be rowing for Great Britain and Blake Parsons, Lauren Wilkinson, and Ashton Brown will be competing for Canada.

“As a younger rower, I have been around the older rowers who have been on national teams. They are cool. They train so hard and they get wins in Europe. It is great to be around those guys.”

When Herndon, Va. native Klein started his rowing career as a freshman at Thomas Jefferson High, it didn’t look like he was headed to the U.S. national program.

“I was pretty small, scrawny, and slow,” said Klein. “It took a while for me to hit my stride; I kind of built into it gradually. My sophomore year was when I started to get better; I really started to enjoy it. By senior year, I was solidly into it. I didn’t mature as an athlete until senior year.”

Klein had to overcome some adversity at Princeton to mature into a star. “I had some issues,” said Klein, recalling his freshman season. “I had a shoulder problem that started to bother me. Over the winter I fractured a rib. I was on the novice boat. I had decent training in high school so I felt prepared.”

This spring, Klein and his teammates racheted up their preparation after a narrow regular season loss to Harvard.

“We had been training hard but that was the impetus to fix a few things that we needed to change,” said Klein, reflecting on the defeat which saw Princeton lose by by 0.7 of a second as its 20-race winning streak was snapped.

“That was one of the hardest races I have ever rowed in. Watching the film, it was tough to see how close it was. All credit to them, they earned it. They raced harder than we did. We had a new sense of purpose going into sprints; it made the win at sprints that much sweeter. At the IRA, we wanted to win for Jack and James (senior stars Jack Leonard and James Donovan). The seven younger guys wanted them to go out on a high.”

After the season, Klein was primed for some more high level rowing as he headed to the U.S. U-23 training camp in Oklahoma City, looking to make the lightweight four boat.

While he ended up not making that boat, Klein has forged a solid partnership with Mike Kerrigan of the Naval Academy in the lightweight pair.

“Mike and I both went out with the hope of making the lightweight 4 and when it looked like we may not make it, the coaches threw us in a pair. We didn’t row very well together at first but we got our blades in and picked up some speed. They tried some other combinations; they let us row at the trials and we won.”

Klein likes the progress he and Kerrigan have shown as they have gone through their final preparations for the world competition.

“I think we have made huge improvements since we started and won the trials,” added Klein. “Being able to focus on rowing together has made a big difference; I am definitely happier about how we have been doing.”

The pair hope to do some big things in Belarus. “At the very least, we want to make the final,” asserted Klein. “The coach wants us to get a medal. That would be great but it is a very difficult competition.”

Like two years ago, Klein is confident that the work he puts in over the summer will pay dividends. “No matter what happens, it is great preparation for senior season,” said Klein. “Next year should be great with the seven guys returning.”

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