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Stone, Wagner built bond in boat from the ground up

By Kenneth Manoj, Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication | July 24, 2021, 7:47 p.m. (ET)

Rowers Gevvie Stone and Kristi Wagner built a strong connection in a very short time.

For athletes attending the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics, their journeys will reflect years of hard work and preparation. 

For Gevvie Stone (Princeton Rowing) and Kristi Wagner (Yale Rowing), their personal voyages began years ago. But the story of their partnership, the one that brought them to Tokyo, began less than five months ago. 

It was February 26. The U.S. Olympic Rowing Trials were underway at Nathan Benderson Park in Sarasota, Florida. Kara Kohler (UC Berkeley Rowing) finished first in women’s single sculls, punching her ticket for Tokyo. Finishing second and third respectively, Stone and Wagner were disappointed to not qualify in their preferred event. 

But neither was willing to give up on an Olympic dream. They had worked too hard and sacrificed too much to walk away. Wagner had left her job in Boston to train full time in Saratoga Springs, New York, while Stone had put her residency program at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston on hold to train for Tokyo. 

So Wagner joined Stone and four other women in Austin, Texas, to train under Gregg Stone (Harvard Rowing), Gevvie’s father. The team of six trained together to find the best partners for the double sculls trials in late April. 

As their placement in the single sculls competition would suggest, Wagner came out of the program as the best partner for Stone. They went on to win the double sculls final in New Jersey, securing their spot for Tokyo.

To create this winning partnership, the pair had to find and match each other’s rhythms, physically and mentally. 

“Kristi and I didn’t row that differently beforehand, and we’re built relatively similarly, which does make things easier in terms of height and femur length,” Gevvie said.

Gregg Stone confirmed the importance of rhythm for the two. True perfect rhythm might be impossible to capture, but they will strive for it if they hope to medal in Tokyo.

“That lack of synchronization over the course of a race can be costly, so it’s something that we’re working on, and we’ll work on right to the finals,” Gregg Stone said. 

Gevvie is looking to win her second medal in her third Olympics appearance, after winning the silver medal in single sculls at the 2016 Rio Olympics and finishing seventh in the same event at the 2012 London Olympics. Wagner will be competing in her first Olympics.

“We’re pretty into taking things day-by-day … we haven't discussed the actual racing in Tokyo,” Gevvie said. “I think for me still at this stage it’s important to remember that we’re doing the same thing that we’ve done since we raced as juniors.”

Before they were Olympians, they were student-athletes. Wagner remembers her time at Yale fondly and is grateful she was able to pursue interests that were both academic and athletic. From learning about time management to simply trying new things, she found enjoyment in life outside of sports.

“Getting to just try and see what you want to do beyond just sports, because it can be easy to spend all of your time doing a sport,” Wagner said. 

This balance of life and sport is something both have juggled quite well since graduating from their respective universities. The degree of difficulty they have faced to reach Tokyo is significant, and now as they head into the final stretch, the stage is set for them to etch their names in history. 

Over the weekend, the duo posted a time of 7:11.14 in the women's double sculls semifinals and advanced to the finals, which will be held at 8:18 p.m. EDT on July 27. 

An earlier version of this article misstated the time of the semifinal event due to a schedule change and did not include its results. 

 

Kenneth Manoj, Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication

Kenneth Manoj is a journalism student at Arizona State University. This story is part of a collaboration between the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee and ASU's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

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