Lightweight Rowers, Dartmouth Grads Carry Heavy Load

  • Dartmouth College graduate Josh Konieczny, front, and U.S. lightweight doubles sculls rowing partner Andrew Campbell unload from Boston's Newell Boathouse for a training session on July 14. The pair has been partnered for 1 1/2 years and will compete in the Summer Olympics this month. (Sculling Fool Photographs - Igor Belakovskiy)

  • From left, Anthony Fahden, Tyler Nase, Edward King and Robin Prendes will compete in the men's lightweight four rowing competition at the Summer Olympic Games. Fahden is a 2008 Dartmouth graduate and former Big Green rower. (courtesy photograoh)

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 8/3/2016 10:40:59 PM

Growing up on a farm in northern Ohio, Josh Konieczny and his father would often compete to see who could throw bales of hay the farthest or split wood the fastest.

Now an Olympic rower, Konieczny competes on a much larger stage but still gets in at least a few sessions of farm duties when he returns home.

“Growing up, those chores simply needed to be done, but I do think they prepared me well for rowing,” said Konieczny, a 2013 Dartmouth College graduate and one of two former Big Green lightweight rowers at this year’s Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janiero. “It’s good physical exercise, and it breaks the monotony of taking hundreds of thousands of rowing strokes.”

Konieczny, 25, will compete in lightweight double sculls with Andrew Campbell, a Connecticut native and former singles rival. After placing sixth in lightweight fours at the U23 World Championships the summer after graduating from Dartmouth, Konieczny placed second to Campbell by six seconds in the U.S. lightweight men’s singles trials.

It was there Konieczny caught the eye of current Dartmouth women’s rowing coach Linda Muri, who at the time had been coaching Campbell.

“Joshua looked really impressive at those trials, very strong and mentally tough,” Muri wrote in an email. “Andrew’s other coach, Charley Butt, concurred. We both found Joshua remarkable.”

Konieczny and Campbell have gone on to form a successful doubles partnership, winning the lightweight double sculls at the 2015 National Selection Regatta I and rallying to place first at this year’s Olympic team trials.

“When I was rowing singles, I always thought of (Campbell) as someone I needed to defeat,” Konieczny wrote in an email. “However, rowing the double takes away any element of competition we have with each other. The double is a boat that will not go fast unless both rowers are totally in sync, and to do that we have to think of ourselves as a double and not as competitors, or even as distinct rowers.”

Konieczny — who helped the Big Green’s lightweight varsity eight boat place second at the Eastern Sprints as a junior and third as a senior — found it both physically and psychologically challenging to transition from eight boats to sculling with Team USA.

“That biggest difference is that I’m now pulling on two oars instead of one,” Konieczny said. “Since I had always rowed with my oar to my right side in the eight, it took a long time before I could even coordinate my right hand to do that same thing as the left. At the psychological level, it’s an adjustment not having as large of a team and support system rowing in double as opposed to eight.”

Coach Muri feels it will serve Konieczny well to maintain the same even-keeled approach to training and competing that she witnessed while coaching him leading up to the 2014 World Rowing Championships in Amsterdam.

“I’d like to see him race like he does in practice, to keep the calm, cool, collected and level head I have seen him demonstrate while at the same time going all out,” Muri said. “If he does that, there could be some hardware at the end of the line.”

The Games’ other former Dartmouth rower, Anthony Fahden, is returning to the Summer Olympics after placing eighth four years ago in London in the lightweight four.

Fahden, 30, rowed from the bow in London and figures to sit second this year, he said, in a fours boat containing one other rower, stern seat Robin Prendes, as a carryover from 2012.

This year’s team — also including Edward King and Tyler Nase — won bronze in the top-level World Rowing Cup I in Italy in April, yet Fahden was quick to point out that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re an automatic contender for a medal in Rio.

“There were a lot of great crews that didn’t make that event, the Kiwis (New Zealand), the Danes (Denmark) and the French being a few of them,” Fahden said in a phone interview from the U.S. training center in Princeton, N.J., a few days before departing for Brazil. “The World Cup isn’t always an indication of what you’re going to see at the Olympics, because the competition in our event is extremely tight. There are 6-8 crews that can win on a given day and can all be 3-4 seconds apart. The best thing we can do is to prepare as hard as we can and hope that it’s our day when the time comes.”

Fahden, a native of California’s Bay Area, played 10 years of youth hockey before breaking his leg while skating as a high school freshman.

He later gave rowing a try and became enamored with the sport, soon joining the Oakland Strokes club team.

“It was really by chance that I started rowing, but I’d always liked using my legs and hips and the aerobics aspect. … It kind of came naturally,” Fahden said.

Fahden went on to a three-year varsity career at Dartmouth, helping the Big Green’s lightweight varsity eight boat transcend from last place at the Eastern Sprints during his freshman year to winning it when he was a junior. Team USA highlights include a gold medal in the lightweight eight at the U.S. Rowing National Championships in 2009 and lightweights pairs wins at the 2010 and 2013 National Selection Regattas.

Fahden said that while he’ll try to keep preparation methods similarly rigorous while in Rio, he’ll fall back on his experience from the 2012 Games when it comes to comportment out of the water.

“Experience helps just in terms of knowing what to expect,” he said. “Being familiar with some of the protocols in the (athletes’) village already will keep things a little less crazy.”

Jared Pendak can be reached at jpendak@vnews.com or 603-727-3225.




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