By Peggy Shinn | Aug. 13, 2016, 2:59 p.m. (ET)
Silver medalist Gevvie Stone celebrates after the medal ceremony for the women's single sculls at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Lagoa Stadium on Aug. 13, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro


RIO DE JANEIRO — When Gevvie Stone retires from competitive rowing, she plans to become an orthopedic surgeon.

In Rio, she cut surgically through the field in the women’s single sculls, winning her first Olympic medal — a silver in women’s single sculls in a time of 7:22.92.

Reigning world champion Kimberley Brennan from Australia won in 7:21.54, with China’s Jingli Duan, the 2015 world bronze medalist, rounding out the medals in third, 7:24.13.

The U.S. last won a medal in women’s single sculls in 2008, when Michelle Guerette claimed the silver.

“It’s so funny because people think that silver medalists are unhappy because they didn’t get gold,” said Stone. “I’m so happy. I could not be happier. Kimmie has been on the top and to be that close to her and get the silver medal, it’s amazing.”

Stone’s performance in Rio dates back four years to the London Olympic Games, where she finished seventh. At those Games, she was there for the experience and had no expectations to medal. In fact, she planned to retire after London and return to medical school. 

But as the London Games approached, she was still rowing faster and faster, and a number of coaches approached her and her father, Gregg Stone, also an Olympic rower who serves as her coach, and mentioned that they looked forward to seeing what Gevvie could do in the coming years.

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Stone also wondered how much faster she could go. So she kept rowing, balancing it with med school until she graduated in May 2014. 

After a solid year of training, she stormed onto the world cup circuit in 2015, finishing on the podium in every race in which she has entered. At 2015 world championships, she finished just off the podium in fourth.

Stone, now 31, won the Olympic Trials in April, then finished second in World Rowing Cup II, making her a medal contender for Rio.

In the A Final, Stone got off to her usual slower start, and she was in third at the first 500-meter mark. By the halfway point at 1,000 meters, she had moved up to second and knew she was in a good place.

“Then, we hit the cross chop, and I could feel everyone else struggling a little bit, and I was like, ‘Yes, this is Boston. This what I want. This is rough water,’” said Stone, who lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and trains on the Charles River. 

Stone was also prepared for Duan to surge forward like she had in the semifinal; the Chinese sculler usually makes a move around the 1,500, so Stone did a power ten to stay in second place.

“Then, the last 500 was just go for it, channeling my guys back home,” she said, referring to her training partners in Boston. 

Stone’s Olympic career ended with this race — although she plans to race the Head of the Charles in October. Residency applications are due Sept. 15. Then she will find out where she will complete her medical residency in March 2017. Residency programs begin in June.

She loves rowing but is ready to bid adieu to full-time training.

“There can’t be a better way to go out,” she said. “Sure, maybe a gold medal, but Kimmie so deserves that. And to be that close to her, I’m on top of the moon. I can’t imagine a better way to end a career, just getting fast and faster and faster. This is pretty much as good as it gets.”

A freelance writer based in Vermont, Peggy Shinn is in Rio covering her fourth Olympic Games. She has contributed to TeamUSA.org since its inception in 2008.