When Tom Peszek was a sophomore at the University of Michigan he was looking for something to do to stay in shape. And good for him, we’ve all been there. You put on a little weight after your freshman year, you get lazy, you drink, you eat meatball pizza at 3 a.m.—it happens. Few of us, however, pick a sport and wind up in the Olympics eight years later, which is exactly what Peszek has done.
Looking to stoke his competitive fire and permanently keep off the freshman fifteen, Peszek joined the Michigan rowing team his second year of school and has been on a fast track to London ever since. In two short years, he made the under-23 national team and moved to Oklahoma to train at the Oklahoma City National High Performance Center. He started training three or four hours a day, qualified for the senior national team and began competing at the Olympic level in the men’s pair event, where he and partner Silas Stafford won the 2012 US Olympic Trials.
Like Peszek, Stafford took a backdoor route to rowing. He decided to give the sport a shot after his sister said he’d be good at it due to his 6’4″, 207-pound frame. Before grabbing an oar, Stafford was an impressive distance runner in high school who dreamed of running for a big-time university. When his times slowed and that dream faded during his freshman year at UCLA, he had the fateful talk with his sister and decided to try out rowing. According to an interview with the website Row2K.com, Stafford says that he won a novice relay race at his first practice and he got hooked on the sport. He then transferred to Stanford and won Boston’s famous Head of the Charles race his junior year, planting the seeds in his mind that he could compete on the international level. Now, paired with Peszek, he’s rowing for the gold in London. Not bad for an ex-high school runner and a guy just looking to stay in shape.
Oh, and if you’re thinking of picking up rowing, here’s Stafford’s advice on how to row fast: “I say that the best way to go fast is to have crushing power, impeccable technique and high morale.” No problem. Sign us up.