BU Today


BU Oarsmen Reach for Olympic Glory

Year in Review: 2008


Click on the slide show above to see images of past BU rowing Olympians. Photos courtesy of BU Athletics

Through December 24, BU Today is looking back at the most popular stories of the year. We’ll be back with new stories for the new year on Monday, January 5. Happy holidays!

When Meindert Klem and Jozef Klaassen, members of BU’s crew program, took the year off from their studies last year, they suspected that “off” would be the wrong word to describe their daily routine. And they were right.

Dutch citizens both, Klem (CGS’07, CAS’10) and Klaassen (SMG’09) spent the six months before the Beijing Olympics training with the Netherlands national rowing team, an endeavor that filled their days with river workouts at 185 heartbeats per minute and many miles of cycling and running. “Also weight lifting,” says Klem. “It’s two hours of lifting the heaviest things you can imagine. We throw up every once in a while.”

In June, the two heavyweight sweepers (two hands on a single oar) helped the Dutch eight-man boat make the cut at the 2008 Final Olympic Qualification Regatta in Poland. Prior to arriving in Beijing for the world’s most prestigious competition, the team spent two weeks training in South Korea in an effort to adjust to China’s climate. It wasn’t easy, as Klaassen writes on his Olympic blog, Live from Beijing:

“… this week the sun has hit with a 105°F vengeance. Humidity is ALWAYS close to 100 percent. It is currently summer in Korea (same latitude as Florida) … trying to keep cool is a major challenge; despite wearing a wet t-shirt on your head and constantly pouring cool water on yourself at each pause in the training, we are constantly wary of overheating and/or sunstroke. Sunscreen and wet towels worn as turbans are essential.”

With one of the world’s tallest populations — height creates a slight stroke advantage — the Netherlands has a strong rowing tradition. The country earned its first medal at the second modern-day Olympics, in Paris in 1900, and has been racking up victories ever since. In 1996, the Dutch men’s eight brought home gold from Atlanta, and eight years later the same boat took silver in Athens, losing only to the Americans.

Klem’s father, Adrianus, rowed in the 1976 Olympics, and Klem, an international relations major, has been rowing since he was 14. Younger brother Sjoerd (CGS’09) is following suit, rowing last year as a member of the BU freshman squad, suggesting that river water indeed courses through Klem family veins. Klaassen, who grew up in New Zealand, has longed for the Olympic waterways since watching Robert Waddell claim single sculls gold for New Zealand in Sydney in 2000.

Klem and Klaassen are the 13th and 14th BU rowers to reach Olympic heights since the Terriers began dipping their oars in the Charles in 1937. The first appearance of a BU oarsman at the summer games was in 1956, the last in 1996. Odds are, 2008 will be a good year for BU: two recent graduates are also gunning for Olympic contention in rowing: Florian Mennigen (CAS’06) will captain Germany’s eight, and William Daly (CGS’04, SMG’06) will row in the lightweight coxless four for the United States. Daly has raced in the last two World Championships, but this is his first Olympics.

Rounding out Terrier representation in Beijing is two-time Olympic medalist and longtime U.S. National Team coach Ted Nash (DGE’54), who will coach the men’s coxless pair. Nash won gold at the 1960 Rome games as an oarsman in the coxless four, the first American crew ever to win the event. Four years later in Tokyo, he earned a medal again in the same boat, this time a bronze. Nash has won numerous Pan-American and World Championships, and has coached crews at the last 11 Olympics.

Caleb Daniloff can be reached at cdanilof@bu.edu.

Editor’s note: Of the five Terriers, Klaassen and Klem came closest to fulfilling their dream. Rowing in the men’s eight, they finished in fourth place in the August 24 final, just four secondsbehind the American boat, which took bronze. With Klem in the bow andKlaassen in the fourth seat, the Dutch boat completed the 2000-metercourse at the Shunyi Olympic Rowing-Canoeing Park in 5:29.26.

This story originally ran August 7, 2008.

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