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Vol. LXII, No. 30
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
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(Photo provided courtesy of USRowing)

READY AND WILLING: Hun School alum and gold medalist rower Jason Read is looking forward to his second trip to the Summer Olympics. Read, who helped the U.S. Eight capture gold in 2004, is an alternate for the U.S. rowing team in the upcoming Beijing Summer Olympics.

Hun Alum Read Primed to Respond as Alternate for U.S. Olympic Rowing

Bill Alden

Jason Read is trained to respond in emergency situations.

As a member of the Amwell Valley Rescue Squad, Read was a first responder following the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center.

Read, the squad’s chief of operations, served on the New Jersey command staff as a communications officer in the aftermath of the attack.

Now, Read, a Hun School alum, is poised to respond, if needed, as an alternate for the U.S. rowing team in the upcoming Beijing Summer Olympics.

Read, who won a gold medal in the 2004 Summer Olympics as a member of the U.S. eight, is excited about his role.

“I am honored at the opportunity of going to my second Olympic Games and representing our country,” said Read, 30, who has been rowing in the U.S. national rowing program since 2001.

“I’ll row in any boat where I am needed. Hopefully no one will get sick and everyone will be healthy. We’ll be on standby and ready to go in if needed.”

For Read and his fellow alternates, the lead-up to the Olympics requires flexibility as well as endurance.

“We train interchangeably every day; there is no outward difference,” said Read, who is one of six men’s alternates on the team.

“The interchangeability has to be seamless. I was in the eight last night; I was in the four this morning. I am ready to respond under any conditions.”

The response of the triumphant U.S. eight in the Athens games in 2004 is something that Read will never forget.

“It was a profound and life-changing experience,” asserted Read, with his voice rising.

“To win the first gold medal for the U.S. in our sport in 40 years and to set the world record and to do it in the city where the Olympics all began was absolutely intoxicating.”

The combination of that success and the tragedy Read experienced in conjunction with 9/11 made him a sought-after speaker upon his return to New Jersey.

“I frequently get asked to get involved in leadership speaking, juxtaposing working at ground zero and the emotions of that experience against winning a gold medal for our country and hearing the national anthem,” said Read. “I go through all the emotions, physical and mental experiences between those two.”

Reaching the peak of the rowing world has been quite an experience for Read, who was hardly a star in his early days at Hun.

“I started out as the mascot for the team in the 6th and 7th grade,” recalled the 6’0, 184-pound Read, who went on to row at Temple University.

“Then I coxed as an 8th grader; they needed an extra body, somebody that was little with a pulse. I’ve always been the smallest on the team. At Hun I was the smallest, at Temple I was the smallest and on the Olympic team I was the smallest.”

With the U.S rowing team based in the Princeton area, training at both the Princeton University boathouse and the Lake Mercer’s Casperson Rowing Center, Read is hoping that attention from the upcoming games garner big support in the Garden State.

“I hope more residents will catch the Olympic excitement we have in Central Jersey,” said Read, who has been on leave from his job with the Capital Health System since October in order to focus on the Olympics.

“A lot of people don’t know we are in their backyard. We are in desperate need of funding. With all the corporations in the area and the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, hopefully we’ll be able to leverage our success in Beijing.”

Read acknowledges that the U.S. eight faces a major challenge in its quest to win a second straight gold medal.

“The competition is severe by all accounts,” said Read. “The eight will have to have two perfect races in order to win gold. It’s achievable but it’s going to be very, very difficult.”

No matter what happens in Beijing, Read is determined to make the most of his second trip to the Olympics.

“I look forward to seeing a lot of our teammates from other sports that we spent a lot of time with in Athens,” added Read. “I am at the service of our coach; however he wants me to help out.”

And with his flair for responding under pressure in and out of the water, Read could be quite a help if called upon.

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