A Rower Named Desire

After leaving Australia to study and row in the United States, senior Josh Hicks competed for his native country as a member of its U-23 national team this summer

Emily C. Wong

Australian senior Josh Hicks won silver for his country at the U-23 World Championships and now has his eyes set on a prize this weekend.

This summer, senior Harvard heavyweight rower Josh Hicks helped bring home a silver medal for his native Australia as a member of the U-23 national team. Little did he know that his path to the national team would begin as a collegiate rower.

Now a senior on the Crimson squad, Hicks has been instrumental to the program’s success from the start.

“He’s one of those guys who, since the very beginning of freshman year, has always been at the top of the squad physically,” says fellow senior rower Jason Phillips. “He jumped right in and started moving towards the top, and he’s been in the best boats ever since.”

Former teammate Matt Edstein ’12, who is now involved with the Australian national team, succinctly summed up the reason for Hicks’ ascent.

“When Josh first joined the varsity squad in his sophomore year, we coined the nickname ‘Desire’ for him,” Edstein wrote in an email because he could not be reached by phone. “It basically sums up how he approaches training and racing: with a lot of heart and tenacity.”

Hicks’ “desire” and rowing skill have led him from his home in Perth, Australia to the banks of the Charles River and to Trakai, Lithuania, for the 2012 U-23 World Championships.

His high school cross country and rowing coach, Phil Jurjevich, raves about the senior’s incredible work ethic and strength, especially given his relatively small stature for a rower.

“Josh doesn’t lose intensity,” Jurjevich notes. “He’s very strong for his height and just has a ridiculous tank and engine. He’s always had the ability to push himself 10 out of 10 where other rowers might be at, say, a six out of 10.”

Harvard heavyweight coach Harry Parker, celebrating his 51st year as head coach of the Crimson, says Hicks sets an excellent example for his teammates.

“His motivation is the aspect of his rowing that impresses the other guys on the team the most,” Parker says. “They recognize how motivated he is, how hard he trains, and how much effort he puts into his rowing.”

Although he did not start until he was 14, Hicks quickly threw himself into rowing.

“I started rowing basically because my school was next to the river,” Hicks says. “Everyone else played basketball and every school had a basketball ring, but my dad pointed out that not every school gave you the opportunity to go splash around in the river, so I started rowing.”

Hicks was also a champion cross country runner at the time. He went undefeated in high school in open meets and set the conference record in the 1,500-meter race his senior year.

Jurjevich recalls a particularly telling episode detailing the young runner’s tireless nature.

“Before a meet, four runners went into the city several kilometers away to get food,” Jurjevich recounts. “Three of them made it, but Josh was finishing his food and the bus took off just as he approached. He ran the whole way back, chasing the bus as the boys watched him out the back window.”

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