Vol. LXII, No. 31
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
(Photo courtesy of USRowing)
TALL ORDER: Former Princeton University rowing star Steven Coppola will be making his Olympic debut next month at the Beijing Summer Olympics. The 68, 215-pound Coppola, a 2006 Princeton alum, will be rowing for the U.S. Mens eight as it looks to win a second straight gold medal.
When Steve Coppola entered high school, he saw basketball as his main sport.
Although Coppola was on his way to reaching a towering 68, his parents decided that his height and energy might serve him well on the water.
I first started rowing when I was 14; my parents signed me up for a summer rowing camp to get me out of their hair, recalled Coppola, a native of Buffalo, N.Y. They just couldnt tell me to stop after that.
Coppola hasnt stopped improving, going on to be a star for the Princeton University heavyweight program and then making an impact for the U.S. Rowing team.
In mid-August, Coppola will reach new heights in the rowing world when he competes for the U.S. Olympic team in the mens eight at the Beijing Summer Olympics.
In reflecting on making his first U.S. Olympic team, Coppola was speechless.
I think Im still in a state of shock, said Coppola, a 2006 Princeton graduate who helped the U.S. Eight finish fourth in the 2007 FISA World Championships and third in 2006.
Its hard to put into words; I dont know what to say. Its been a long process; the training has been ramping up a little the last couple of years.
It didnt take long for Coppola to ramp things up after being introduced to rowing.
In my sophomore year of high school, I started specializing in rowing, said Coppola.
I was spending my summers rowing while my basketball teammates were playing in summer leagues. They were getting better at basketball while I was getting better at rowing. I saw my playing time diminish as my friends were honing their skills and I was honing my rowing skills. Eventually I said to myself, you are going to be a lot better at rowing so just focus on that and maybe you can be really good.
Coppola, though, didnt get really good until he joined the Princeton mens heavyweight program and came under the tutelage of then-freshman coach Greg Hughes and varsity head coach Curtis Jordan.
I think I was lucky that Greg Hughes and Curtis Jordan took a little bit of a gamble on me; I think we were both lucky in the long run, said Coppola, who helped the Tigers heavyweight eight finish second in the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) national championships in both 2005 and 2006.
I had to get used to the training volume and intensity. I went from being a big fish to being the small fish; that was the biggest adjustment I would say. I enjoyed it.
The influence of Hughes, now the Princeton mens lightweight head coach, and Jordan, helped Coppola develop into a world class rower.
I think they knew me better than I knew myself, asserted Coppola. Their job is molding young men and they are very good at it. It was great to learn from two of the greats. Curtis theme was that you are way more capable than you think you are. He always said that to me and I would always try to push myself and prove him right.
Coppola and his classmates pushed themselves hard from the start, turning heads as freshmen when they went undefeated and capped their debut campaign by winning the Temple Challenge Cup at the storied Henley Regatta in England.
Ill never forget our freshman season; that was something really special, said Coppola.
Going undefeated and then going over to English Henley and after all that hard work and hard racing, we won the championship race against another Princeton crew (the Tiger mens varsity lightweight boat). That was great.
With the Olympic rowing competition taking place from August 9-17, Coppola is hoping that his current boat can come together and do some great things as it looks to win a second straight gold medal in the competition.
Well just be working on competing and trying to iron out things, said Coppola.
We mix it up all year; were pretty comfortable with each other. It is just really working on the finer points. Im just going to try and keep my head down and work hard.
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