Feb. 26, 2008
By Brett Johnson
As February comes to a close, the USRowing National Training Center men’s sweep squad is entering its final month of winter training at Clemson University in Clemson, S.C.
For the past four months, more than 20 rowers have logged hours of training time on Lake Hartwell in preparation for this summer’s Olympic Games in Beijing, China. With miles of rowable water, a fully buoyed course, an erg and weight room, and access to the athletic department training staff, Clemson has provided a perfect setting for the team’s winter training camp.
“The thing that sets us apart from other programs is that we have an on-campus facility that we can row on year round, with unlimited miles of water and a 2,000-meter, six-lane buoyed course,” said Clemson Women’s Head Coach Richard Ruggieri. “We have one of the largest boathouses in the country, and a new training center with an erg and weight room Š There is nothing that we need. We have full support from the athletic department. I think the reason that USRowing was interested in coming down here was that we are set up in every capacity.”
With numerous athletes training at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif., the team was looking for an alternate training site that was less crowded. Men’s Head Coach Mike Teti and Assistant Coach Matt Imes approached Ruggieri about the possibility of training in Clemson last summer, and after visiting in September, the coaches decided it would be an ideal location.
“I had been to Clemson before, but I didn’t know a lot about the University,” Imes said. “In the five months that we’ve been here, it’s a great setup. You can tell that the town takes great pride in the University. The athletic department takes pride in doing things the right way. For them, it really is a family atmosphere.”
Both Clemson University and the town have welcomed the team to South Carolina. In addition to the boathouse and the rowing facilities, the team has had access to the athletic department’s training staff, weight room and medical staff, as well as the University’s dining hall. Locally, Slann Property Management provided access to apartments, while ColorTyme of Greenville and Greer, S.C., arranged to furnish the apartments.
“In general, the University and the community have really embraced the team,” Ruggieri said. “A lot of groups have come down. Mike’s talked to a lot of groups. The athletic department and the University have honored the guys a few times. The community has really tried to show that they support their Olympic dreams. For us, the benefit is that the name of rowing has grown within the community, the University and the athletic department.”
“Richard and the women’s team have really opened their doors about as wide as they could for us,” said Wyatt Allen, 2004 Olympic gold medalist. “We’ve had full access to their facilities, which are great. The water is pretty ideal. And from everything I’ve seen, the University has been very excited to have us here. They’ve done all they can to welcome us here and let us know that they are excited to have us here.”
With 24 to 26 guys training in one location for five months, Imes said the coaches are very conscious of their training group.
“We try to leave a light footprint, but it gets wearing no matter where we’re at,” he said. “You would expect the first four to six weeks would be a honeymoon and everyone would be excited, but after two or three months, it would get a little old. From that end, it’s been better than what you would expect. We don’t have a lot of interaction with the women’s team, but they’ve been great. If they had a problem with us being here, we wouldn’t be here. It’s because of their generosity that we’ve been able to have this opportunity.”
While the team has had limited interaction with the women’s squad throughout the camp, the guys will be going up on the auction block This Thursday as part of Clemson Rowing’s Relay for Life. Several of the guys have agreed to be auctioned off at a “Date an Olympian” event at the Esso Club. The dinners have been donated by local restaurants and all proceeds will benefit the American Cancer Society.
“I feel that Clemson as a whole really has an environment of wanting to give back,” Ruggieri said. “We’re doing two things. The women’s team will be doing a marathon row and the men will be auctioning themselves off to the local patrons. I think it is good to give a bit back and have a little fun with it.”
With less than one month of the winter camp remaining, the team continues to put in its mileage and lay a foundation for the Olympic Games.
“Whatever success we end up having this summer in Beijing, the people down here will be a big part of that success,” Imes said.
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