NEW CANAAN, Conn. -- Yan Vengerovskiy knew Charlie Cole and Andrew Campbell had the potential to row in the Summer Olympics when they first competed for him as part of the New Canaan crew.
Now, to see both men wearing the U.S. colors, representing the country, competing on the world’s grandest sports stage, Vengerovskiy’s pride flows the like the river on which they trained. Years of work with both men on the Norwalk River, just steps from the Maritime Rowing Club that Vengerovskiy founded in the 1990s, will be on display for all the world to see.
Cole and Campbell are part of the U.S. delegation that will compete in the Summer Olympics, which begin Friday in Rio de Janeiro.
“Seeing my athletes at the Olympics is one of my biggest coaching achievements,’’ Vengerovskiy said. “I’m proud of them. When a guy like Charlie says in his biography that I was the biggest influence on his career, I couldn’t be happier. They were great rowers for me. They’ve also become good friends.”
Cole, 30, will row for the Men’s Four, which begins Sunday. He won a bronze medal in 2012 Summer Games in London, and has competed for national teams nearly every year since 2003. The U.S. team has an excellent prospect at a medal, perhaps even a gold if it can find a way to slip past Great Britain, which has won the event four straight times.
“Charlie was one of the most dedicated rowers I’ve ever had,’’ Vengerovskiy said. “He never wasted any time. He’d come to practice and go right to the rowing machine. He set a good example as a high school athlete.”
Cole’s teammates on the are Seth Weil, Henrik Rummel and Matt Miller. Rummel was also on the crew in London. The U.S. team has had two top-four finishes on the World Cup circuit this year, including a win in Italy in April. The bronze in the London Olympics was the first medal for the U.S. in the event since 1992.
Cole, who was the 2011 USRowing Athlete of the Year, asked his parents, Rufus and Ann, if he could quit rowing when he first started in high school. Fortunately, his parents did not relent.
“Charlie has exceeded my expectations,’’ Vengerovskiy said. “He was always a strong rower. But he has worked hard and pushed himself physically and mentally to develop his rowing skills.”
Campbell, 24, narrowly missed making the Olympic team in 2012. He competes in the lightweight double sculls and will be paired with Joshua Konieczny. Campbell finished eighth in the event at last year’s World Rowing Championships. Campbell and Konieczny race for the first time on Saturday.
“It’s one of the strongest classes,’’ Vengerovskiy said. “They’ve done well at international competition. I just want to see them take it one step at a time.”
Like Cole, Campbell’s ascent is hardly surprising. He won the single sculls and the lightweight double sculls at the 2010 USRowing Youth National Championships. He continued his career at Harvard, where he graduated in 2014.
“From the earliest stages he just had a natural ability,’’ Vengerovskiy said. “He didn’t make a lot of mistakes, and he really worked at it. He wanted to become a great rower.”
Vengerovskiy has had his share of highlights in seeing his athletes evolve and compete on the world stage. Dan Walsh of Norwalk won a bronze medal at the 2008 Summer Olympics and was a national team rower for 12 years. Rachel Anderson of Darien was named USRowing’s Athlete of the Year in 2003 and won a gold medal at the 1999 World Championships.
Having rowers who got their start with his club never grows old for Vengerovskiy, whose team has become of the most highly decorated programs in the country.
When the racing starts this weekend, Vengerovskiy will be watching and rooting for his rowers. “I’m happy for them,’’ he said. “They are incredible athletes who have worked hard to get as far as they have. They are great representatives for our club, and our country.”
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