July 27, 2016

Reconsidering Decision to Retire after London Games, PU Grad Stone Returning to Olympics in Single Sculls


ROWING TO RIO: Gevvie Stone displays her intensity in a single sculls race this season. Stone, a former Princeton University star who took seventh in the single sculls in the 2012 Summer Olympics, is making a return trip to the Olympics as she will compete at the Rio Summer Games next month. It figures to be the last competition for Stone, a 2014 graduate of Tufts University Medical School, who will be applying for residencies this fall. (Photo provided by USRowing)

After placing seventh in the women’s single sculls at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Genevra “Gevvie” Stone believed that was going to be her last hurrah in rowing.

Having taken a hiatus from Tufts University Medical School to train for the London Games, former Princeton University standout Stone was determined to finish up her studies.

“I thought I was done after London; I was restarting school two weeks after,” said Stone, a 2007 Princeton grad and member of the legendary Tiger open women’s eight that cruised to an NCAA title in 2006.

“It was going to be harder to train during third or fourth year than it is during first and second because you are in the hospital and you are an apprentice. I had gone to the dean of the med school and told him that the London Olympics was a once in a lifetime opportunity. I had really planned on retiring.”

Stone plunged back into studies but gradually found she couldn’t resist the pull of rowing.

“In the back of my head there was just a little question of how fast could I get,” said Stone.

“I was still getting faster through London. I remember coaches had approached my dad (Gregg Stone) and said I could be on the podium in Rio. There was that little seed, I knew I still loved it. I was enjoying training. I missed being outside. I had a family rotation and I would be stuck in traffic coming home and I was wishing I was out rowing and not stuck in traffic. There were just a bunch of things that were leading toward my feeling that I wasn’t done yet. I had another conversation with the dean and said “I know I said it was a once in a lifetime thing, but maybe it was a twice in a lifetime thing.”

Stone resumed training and competing while earning her M.D. in 2014, proving that she had the speed to represent the U.S. at the Rio Summer Games next month in the single sculls after rolling to victory in the national selection regatta.

“In this sport, dedicating yourself to the process is a big part of it, putting in the time and the work,” said Stone, 31, reflecting on earning a return trip to the Olympics.

“You have to love what you do in order to successfully devote yourself to a sport like rowing. You have to have a passion for it, a hunger for it. I remember reading a part of Boys in the Boat and one of the quotes refers to how a rower left a little bit of his heart in the boat. Rowers leave a lot of their heart on the water. I definitely feel that in big races and big regattas, there is a little bit left behind because there is so much time and energy to go into that love of the sport.”

The memories of thriving in the upbeat atmosphere surrounding the London Summer Games also made Stone second guess her decision to leave competitive rowing.

“It was amazing, I just remember a ton of positive energy on the part of the athletes, the volunteers, and the spectators,” said Stone.

“Everyone in the city of London was so excited about the Olympics. I had great races. It was definitely progress at that point for me. I had only been in one world championship prior to that and I was 11th. I had beat a few women who I had never beaten before. I think I performed in terms of what I set as the standard for myself and what I should execute. Not everyone’s best race is capable of winning a gold medal and four years ago I wasn’t capable.”

Remaining in Boston and rowing on the Charles River, Stone is coached by her father, a former star rower at Harvard who competed for the U.S. national program and qualified to represent the U.S. in the single sculls at the 1980 Moscow Summer Games but missed his chance at the Olympics due to the U.S. boycott.

“It is good although sometimes we disagree,” said Stone with a chuckle, reflecting on the daily sessions with her dad.

That work paid dividends last year when Stone achieved a major breakthrough by taking fourth in the single sculls at the 2105 World Rowing Championships.

“I wanted to be on the podium but being fourth in a pre-Olympic year is the best year to be fourth because you are in the A final which qualifies the boat for the Olympics,” said Stone. “It was my first international senior A final, which was awesome. It felt so good and then it is such motivation. It is within your reach but you are not there.”

In order to maximize her chances of getting on the podium in Rio, Stone has been fine-tuning her regimen off the water, going to a chiropractor for physical therapy, monitoring her diet, doing yoga, and intensifying her weight training.

“I have a pretty good idea of what to do on the water, there is only a limited quantity of what you can do on the water,” said the 6’0, 157-pound Stone, noting that she resumed eating meat after years as a vegetarian when nutrition labs revealed she was deficient in amino acids.

Stone was putting in plenty of high-quality work in her final weeks in Boston before leaving for Rio.

“We just started going back to race pace work, building back up to speed,” said Stone.

“I am doing 16 workouts a week. I am on the water twice a day most days. In the middle of the week I take a mental day so I row in the morning and then my afternoon workout is on the stationary bike. It is mostly rowing and weight lifting Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and yoga on Sunday.”

Having taken second at World Rowing Cup II earlier this year, Stone has high hopes heading into the Rio competition, which runs from August 6-13 on the Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon.

“I think I am a medal contender,” said Stone. “The results I have had in the last two years showed that I am definitely a contender to be on the podium. I have more awareness and wisdom in the single as the years go by and as I race more and more. I think you learn something from every race that you take with you in the next one to make you a better racer.”

While Stone flew under the radar before the 2012 Summer Olympics, she has been a media darling in the buildup to Rio, being profiled in the New York Times and making the cover of Rowing magazine.

“It has been a little different this time around because there has been so much more Olympic hoopla for me,” said Stone.

“It is really flattering and it has been amazing. I was selected as one of the athletes that NBC is going to focus on; I have gone to L.A. to do stuff for that.”

With her medical education, Stone is sensitive to the issues stemming from the possibility of rowing on polluted water in Rio.

“I can only control so much and I think for now being in Boston what I control is my practice everyday and executing to the best of my ability on the water,” said Stone.

“There are little things that I can do here. I updated my vaccinations. I am taking precautions with the oars. I am making sure the water bottle hasn’t been touched by contaminated water. I am washing my hands more and never drinking out of a tap.”

Vowing that the Rio Games will be her last hurrah, Stone knows that she made the right decision to stay on the water over the last four years.

“The residencies start in June so I will start the application process this fall,” said Stone, who aspires to be an orthopedic surgeon.

“I will row for fun, recreationally, but this is it for competition so there is definitely an importance to it. It has been crazy. I thought I was leaving it behind; it has been a journey. I am so glad I did it.”