August 12, 2008

Red Rowers Roll in Beijing

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Two former Cornell rowers — both of whom left Cayuga’s waters five years ago and are now first-time Olympians — have advanced into the later rounds of competition of the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing.
With a time of 6:53.26, Ken Jurkowski ’03 cracked the top-3 in his quarterfinal race early yesterday morning. Jurkowski, the lone single sculler on the American team, will race in the men’s single scull semifinals tomorrow at 4 a.m. EST, while Jen Kaido ’03 and the other three members of the U.S. women’s quadruple sculls crew rowed their way to a second-place finish in their quarterfinal race at 4:50 a.m. EST early this morning. The women’s final time trailed leader Germany’s by less the four seconds.
In this ironic twist of scheduling, with a half-day time difference between China and the U.S., the traditionally early-rising rowers are taking to the foreign waters at times that turn their stateside fans themselves into extremely early risers.
But who’s complaining? With a second-place finish in the double sculls at the 2004 U.S. Trials, Jurkowski narrowly missed the Athens Olympics. But he has been on the national team since 2005, and the continuous training paid off when he qualified for the Beijing Games with a victory at the Final Qualification Regatta in Poland two months ago.
A three-year starter on the men’s heavyweight varsity-8 after walking onto the team freshman year, Jurkowski has served as a volunteer women’s rowing assistant coach for the University of Texas for the past three years.
Kaido has spent the years since graduation in similar dedication to the sport. However, now contending at the Shunyi Olympic Rowing-Canoeing Park, Kaido only really commenced her crew career when she transferred to Cornell for her senior year. Fortunately, the 2000-01 Female Athlete of the Year in track and volleyball at SUNY-Cobleskill has always had good role models for hard work.
According to her official U.S. Rowing bio, Kaido refers to her parents, an electrician and nurse, as the hardest-working people she knows. Training at the U.S. Rowing Training Center in Princeton, N.J., most of Kaido’s family lives within an hour of the Olympian.
With four years of experience with the U.S. national team, Kaido took the top ranking at one National Selection Regatta in 2007 after finishing second and third at Selection Regattas in 2006. This year, she took the silver medal in quadruple sculls at the FISA World Cup in Lucerne, Switzerland.
The finals are on Saturday for both Jurkowski’s and Kaido’s events.