Originally created 12/08/96

Rowers to stay in Augusta



CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. - Not everyone at the USRowing Association is thrilled with the establishment of Olympic training centers such as the U.S. National Sculling Center in Augusta.

Despite the opposition, the training centers are here to stay, and USRowing officials say the sculling center will remain in Augusta for at least the next four years.

"Augusta is where (U.S. sculling coach) Igor Grinko wants to stay. We are a board that sets broad policy, and we let the staff make the day-to-day decisions like where they think they can best prepare our athletes," Debby DeAngelis, one of 20 members on the USRowing board said Saturday.

USRowing board members spent much of the past three days at their annual convention here fighting opposition to USRowing's nearly decade-old policy of training America's Olympic rowers at centralized training locations.

Most of the opposition comes from members of some of the oldest boat clubs in cities such as Philadelphia and Boston, which, until the past few years, served as the training grounds for America's Olympic rowers.

The board discounted them and unanimously endorsed the current system, which steers elite athletes to the centers in Chula Vista, Calif., Princeton, N.J., and Augusta.

"This system works. There is a lot of disinformation that's actively being spread by a vocal minority," said Dave Vogel, president of the USRowing board.

The organization's three head coaches also endorsed the current system, calling it the only way to win medals consistently. In the past, the best collegiate or club team during an Olympic year would represent the United States at the Games.

But coaches say the current system pulls the best athletes from all the colleges and clubs and trains them together for four years or more using the latest technology and scientific training methods.

"I came from the club system; I'm a member of a club, but the athletes need the support that comes from a center," said Mike Teti, USRowing's newest head coach.

That doesn't mean the current system is perfect, though.

Although officials with the U.S. Olympic Committee said they believe USRowing's training plan is sound, they were disappointed with the low number of medals won by American crews at this summer's Olympic Games. Out of USRowing's three head coaches, only Mr. Grinko's scullers won a medal.

That performance can't be blamed on the coaches or athletes who competed, officials say, but on the athletes who didn't compete.

"Most of the winners were over the age of 30 with more than 10 years of top-level racing behind them," outgoing coach Mike Spracklen wrote in his post-Olympic report to the board.