PU Rowing Legend Stone Heading to 3rd Olympics, Competing in Double Sculls after Medaling in Single
DOUBLE VISION: Gevvie Stone, front, along with Kristi Wagner row in the women’s double sculls for the U.S. national team. Former Princeton standout Stone ’07 and Wagner, who starred at Yale, will be competing in the double for the U.S. at the Tokyo Olympics next week. (Photo by Ben Tufnell, Row 360, provided courtesy of USRowing)
By Bill Alden
When Gevvie Stone earned a silver medal in the single sculls at the 2016 Summer Olympics, it appeared to be the culmination of a storied rowing career.
Having starred for the Princeton University women’s open rowing program and helping the Tiger varsity 8 win a national title in 2006 and then moving to sculling and taking seventh in the single sculls at the 2012 London Olympics, Stone’s trip to the podium in Rio at age 31 seemed to be a fitting final chapter to her life on the water.
With Stone, a 2007 Princeton alum, having earned a medical degree from Tufts University in 2014 and done a year of residency in emergency medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, her career path after rowing was set.
But the pull of rowing brought her back to the water and Stone resumed training in 2018 with an eye toward making the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. She came in second in the single at the U.S. trials for the 2019 World Championships and turned to the double sculls.
“You adapt or die,” said Stone. “I jumped in the double that spring with my training partner Cicely Madden and we finished fifth. It was a good learning experience for both of us.”
As Stone was regaining her form in early 2020, the pandemic hit and she had to adjust the workouts with her training group that rows on the Charles River.
“We cut down the intensity in terms of volume but also in terms of the types of practices we were doing and how we were approaching them,” said Stone, who is based in her native Boston and coached by her father, Gregg Stone, a former star rower for Harvard.
“We did more cross training and stopped taking times for all of the workouts. That let us train in a fun way. In a way that you would do for the love of the sport which was also great because COVID had enough stress.”
After racheting up her training last fall, Stone, now 36, is looking for another fun experience at the Olympics, having made the U.S. team in the double sculls with former Yale standout Kristi Wagner when the pair took first in the U.S. Trials in April to book their spot at the upcoming Tokyo Olympics.
The partnership with Wagner stemmed from Stone’s loss to Kara Kohler in the single sculls at the U.S. trials.
“I worked very hard in training, I was very focused on that race, I executed and Kara is faster than I am,” said Stone.
“As one wise coach said, you can have a good race and not have it yield the desired outcome. I am proud of all of the work I had done. Sometimes I am surprised that I think I want one thing and it turns out that something else may be better for me.”
Rowing with Wagner has been very good for Stone. “Kristi and I won trials and it has been great to work with her,” said Stone.
“For me at the this stage of my career, it helps me bring my ‘A’ game everyday to be doing it for someone else and not just for myself. Having that teammate in the boat helps me find another gear and she makes it fun. It is fun to share the experience with a teammate.”
The pair have been working on meshing their skills since coming together in April.
“We are built the same way but our natural rowing styles are different,” said Stone, who stands 6’0, one inch shorter than Wagner.
“Once we started rowing together, we have switched the lineup back and forth. I stroked at trials but then we switched for a week and then we switched for another week recently. It is easier to find the average when we are playing both roles. There is a lot of drilling as well, putting pauses in the strokes and focusing the stroke on one part. You are only doing a quarter of the stroke to simplify it and match up for that little bit and extend it and extend it and hopefully the matching continues.”
The U.S. rowers headed to Honolulu, Hawaii where they held a camp from July 7-14 to acclimatize themselves to the Asian climate and time zone.
With the experience of having competed in two previous Olympics, Stone is looking to help Wagner adjust to the high-stakes atmosphere and the hoopla surrounding the Summer Games.
“There is less sticker shock which helps to focus on the racing,” said Stone, whose boat will start heats on July 23 on the Sea Forest Waterway in Tokyo Bay with the final slated for July 30.
“Hopefully some of what I have learned from past Games, I will be able to help Kristi through it so she is able to enjoy it and the experience. We have trained to race and go fast, that is the primary
In Stone’s view, the boat is picking up speed. “We have been getting faster the last couple of weeks,” said Stone.
“We raced internationally at the World Cup in May and finished third. It was and wasn’t a confidence builder. We realized how slow we are off the starting line but the rest of race is respectable. We have been working on that; we hope that everything comes together.”
Coming to a third Olympics is beyond what Stone could have hoped for when she started her rowing career as a prep star at the Winsor School (Mass.) 20 years ago.
“It is even hard for me to wrap my head around it, each one is unique and special in its own way,” said Stone.
“I am currently treating this one as separate from the rest in terms of it still being ahead of me and still having goals for it. Eventually at some point in my life, I hopefully will be able to look back and appreciate the fact that there were three of them. In my head now, they each seem like different segments in the same journey, they are very unique in their own way.”
After competing in Tokyo, Stone is headed back to the emergency room medicine residency at Beth Israel where she will apply some of the lessons she has learned on the water.
“I like adrenaline, I like stress,” said Stone. “It is the same way in life, you never know what is going to happen. In rowing in terms of the race, you are in control of what you are doing but you can’t control your competitors. You have to react and do your best.”