According to The Chronicle's man in Sydney, executive editor Dennis Sodomka, a poor outcome at the 2000 Olympics for U.S. scullers has renewed talk about moving the National Sculling Center out of Augusta.
The primary reason U.S. Rowing, the nation's governing body for all rowing sports, went along with approving Augusta as a sculling center six years ago - instead of more established and popular rowing centers - is that renowned sculling coach Igor Grinko liked it here.
He found the long stretches of flat water in the Savannah River, as well as Langley Pond in South Carolina, to be near-perfect venues to train world-class sculling athletes for the Olympics.
Of course, Grinko also got a lot of support from Augusta's own active rowing club which puts on a regatta at the riverfront each year and also helped raise money to build the Boathouse Community Center at the Augusta Marina.
The coach was riding high four years ago when a team of Augusta-trained male scullers (athletes who row with two oars) won the silver in the Atlanta Olympics. More recently the best the teams have done was the women's quad fourth place finish in last year's world championship.
And this month the American scullers came up empty in Sydney. So now U.S. Rowing is taking a second look at the Augusta operation with an eye toward consolidating it with other rowing sports centers in Princeton or Chula Vista, Calif.
This would be a shame. Each rowing sport is unique, requiring different kinds of boats and training techniques. There's nothing to be gained by consolidation.
Besides, why shake up a program because of one disappointing Olympics? It was, after all, Grinko's Augusta-trained scullers who won the Olympic trials. And the training facilities here, according to the coach, are still the best in the U.S. for scullers.
But the final word here should not be by U.S. Rowing or even coach Grinko. It should be the scullers themselves. And in their talks with Sodomka they indicated they want to maintain separate training facilities - and to stay in Augusta. Let's hope U.S. Rowing is listening.
Having the training center in Augusta has been good for the area. Without it, the city could lose at least three annual rowing competitions. Rowing is not a big spectator sport, but it is prestigious and brings recognition to our community that attracts other sports.
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