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Growing rowing



The sport of rowing continues to make a splash in Oklahoma City. In fact, the United States national rowing team has taken so much of a liking to the Oklahoma City River, it decided to make the waterway its new home.

The USRowing team will consolidate its lightweight division training operations to the Oklahoma City National High Performance Center, headquartered in the Devon Boathouse. The center, which provides a year-round residency program for male and female athletes, also will serve as a development location for other national rowing teams, like the heavyweight men’s team, the open-weight women’s team and adaptive athletes.

The evolution of OKC’s role began when the center was designated as a training site, said Mike Knopp, executive director of the OKC Boathouse Foundation. He said the center and the program in the city became an attraction to the U.S. team, bringing in close to 40 resident athletes — a number he believes will increase.

“The program became very successful and far exceeded expectations,” Knopp said. “Several of our athletes were selected to represent the U.S. in New Zealand, and other athletes have taken prominent roles in national competitions.”

The reason lies within the support of the community, Knopp said.

“It is a combination of elements that make Oklahoma City attractive to athletes, like the river and the Devon Boathouse,” he said. “We have other partners like (the) Skirvin (Hilton), which provides meals to the athletes; St. Anthony’s Hospital provides basic medical care; OCU provides support in education.”

Last summer, the lightweight team won the bronze medal at the 2010 World Rowing Championships in Brest, Belarus. Led by coach John Parker, the U.S. team won a silver medal in the lightweight men’s eight-man division and a bronze in the lightweight women’s quadruple sculls at the 2009 World Rowing Championships. Parker served as the lightweight men’s head coach in 2007 and 2008, and was named director and head coach of the Oklahoma City National High Performance Center in September 2009.

He believes the relocation will benefit the national team’s chances for success.

“While many lightweights have already relocated to Oklahoma City in 2010, the move will consolidate operations and bring all of the top athletes together in one location,” Parker said in a release.

The announcement for the lightweight team’s training consolidation isn’t the last of the changes in Oklahoma City’s part as a rowing hub. Knopp said to expect more announcements concerning the river’s role in rowing in the near future.

“We have a premiere center for rowing and kayaking. We want to see these athletes perform at an international level,” Knopp said. “We hope to attract more athletes here, but also see the sport and the U.S. team excel. The Olympics are around the corner, and we’d like to see the city make an impact moving forward in the future.”

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