The fastest sculler in the United States is a low-key guy. "There's something about messing around in boats that I find pleasant." Tiff Wood '75 says simply about the sport to which he has dedicated the last 16 years of his life.
He's low-key about making the U.S. Olympic team in 1984, which would be his third appearance at the Games. "I hope I'll be able to win the trials in the spring and maybe go to the Olympics," Wood says.
He was low-key about studying at Harvard. "I wasn't a particularly motivated student," he says. "I kind of had a good time and rowed real hard."
And Christopher R. Wood is low-key about what will happen at about 3 p.m. tomorrow, when the elite singles race at the Head of the Charles regatta starts. "I guess I'm the favorite, but who knows," Wood says.
He won a bronze medal at the world championships last August in Duisburg. West Germany, and sports a litany of crew honors--six times on the U.S. national team, his two Olympic appearances, a 1970 trip to the World Youth Rowing Championships in Greece, and a total of five visits to the Royal Henley Regatta in England Wood definitely is the bettor's pack.
Harvard men's crew Coach Harry Parker, who has been informally coaching Wood this year, hedges has bet, but says "I think he'll do very well. There are only a few people who are quite fast that are capable of challenging him." Parker says.
Among the roughly 40 rowers in the elite singles race that might pose a threat, according to Parker, are Doug Hamilton, a Canadian rower and Olympic prospect for his country, and Joe Busacrne, who Wood describes as a "refugee from Yale" and who has been working out at Newell Boat House with Wood.
When he won the bronze at the world championships last year, he "felt things really coming together. Two weeks before the racing started. I got into a pattern where every day was better than the day before. I don't think I ever thought that I--or anyone, for that matter--could do 500-meter pieces that fast."
And he adds--in his low-key way--"I got the feeling I was going pretty fast--it turned out to be true."
Surprisingly, he got off to a slow start in the 2000-meter race, and dropped into a group with the fifth- and sixth-place rowers. "It seemed like two three-boat races. But with 450 meters left, I had caught up with the Russian. I said, 'Holy shit.' I figured if he had drifted back that far, he was dead meat."
Wood says he spent the last 45 strokes of the race counting the rowers behind him, to make sure that he actually was third.
Wood won his medal at Dursburg in a boat fitted with a sliding rigger, which means that the rower sits in a fixed seat and the our assembly moves back and forth. From the standpoint of physics, it means a faster boat, because instead of a 190-pound oarsman moving back and forth, a 30-pound set of oars is moving back and forth.
At the time Wood won in the sliding rigger scull, the apparatus was on probation pending approval by international rowing associations, and was later outlawed.
Wood says he was anxious at the time about whether he could row as effectively in a fixed-rigger scull, but pleased himself by winning a regatta in a standard boat at Lake Casitas. Calif.--where the Olympic races will be held--just three weeks after the world championships.
An analyst for a Boston management consulting firm when he's not rowing. Wood also organized the first indoor rowing championships in January, 1981. Held under the aegis of CRASH-B (Charles River Association of Sculling Has-Beens, an organization Greg Stone '75, a rowing partner of Wood's at Harvard, put together in 1978), about 50 rowers competed on rowing machines against the clock.
"This year the world indoor championships will probably be out of control," says Wood. "I think someone from a running magazine wrote something about it, and since then I've gotten all these letters, including some from Texas, you know guys that have never rowed that want to enter."