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Having already made World Championships history at the junior, U23, and senior levels, Harvard sophomore Andrew Campbell now looks to tackle his next big challenge: the Olympic double.
“The focus is on London 2012,” he says. “I’m not rowing for Harvard right now, unfortunately, so this fall will be focused on finding a double partner and transitioning to the double ... In the spring, I will take a leave of absence and train full time to get ready for London.”
Already a star on the international scene, Campbell’s bronze medals in the lightweight single at the 2010 Junior World Championships and 2011 U23 World Championships both stand as the highest U.S. finish ever in each event. The 19-year-old also took fourth at last weekend’s World Rowing Championships in Bled, Slovenia.
“He was doing quite well in the finals in Bled; [he] had a little bad luck with a bad oar handle,” lightweight coach Charley Butt notes.
But even with the oar handle, Campbell still posted the best U.S. finish in the lightweight single since another Charles River denizen, MIT grad Steve Tucker, took bronze in 2002.
“Each race this summer, since I’m so unproven ... was a really important stepping stone into a higher level of sport,” Campbell says. “Each was kind of a step up from the previous one, so I’m pretty proud of each race.”
Given his recent run–which includes a victory in the lightweight single in this summer’s Elite Nationals in addition to his trials and worlds success–Campbell’s introduction to the boat may seem somewhat surprising.
“I actually originally got into rowing the single because I was the odd man out,” he explains. “When I started rowing in middle school, there were five of us that were kids my age getting involved in it. And I was the slowest out of the five, so they would go in a quad, and they would stick me in a single, because they didn’t have anywhere to put me. It’s kind of funny that I got started rowing the single because I was the worst one in the group.”
The single proved to be a perfect fit for him.
“He’s very self-motivated,” says fellow sophomore standout Michael Wales. “He has the ability to go out there and just keep going and going. He has this attention to detail, and he excels in all his classes. He is just focused on perfection. He’ll work on taking the same perfect stroke over and over.”
Wales competed against Campbell in the double in their junior and senior years, and last year the duo teamed up as stern pair of the freshman eight, which improved consistently over the course of the season.
“He has this undying will to win—that he’ll do whatever it takes to get his bow across the line first,” says Wales, who stroked the crew. “It was really awesome to have him as my seven seat; it was something every rower would want. He’s an incredible person and an extremely powerful athlete.”
Campbell and Butt are hoping that top U.S. scullers are similarly enthusiastic about rowing with the sophomore sensation.
“He demonstrated starting power, the ability to race the boat in the middle 1000, and he also demonstrated the ability to sprint,” Butt says. “I think there’s a lot of value [in rowing with Campbell] for someone who wants to have a good shot at [the Olympics].”
Campbell and Butt plan to bring several top lightweight scullers to the Charles in order to determine which double combination is most effective.
“The double’s one of those finicky boats where just because you have the two fastest singles doesn’t necessarily make the fastest double,” Campbell explains. “There’s a lot of chemistry involved, so it’s important to try out a lot of different people and see, you know, who you gel the best with.”
Then comes the hard part. To make the Olympics, Campbell and his partner will first need to win the National Selection Regatta II and then place in the top two at the Final Olympic Selection Regatta. Because the US did not place in the top 11 at last week’s World Rowing Championships in the lightweight double, the winner of NSR II will need to place in the top two at the Final Olympic Selection Regatta, a last chance race between crews that did not qualify at Worlds.
“It’s a long road—by no means easy,” Campbell says.
But while challenges await him in the future, the rower is currently taking a well-deserved break before throwing himself into his next project.
“I’m taking a little bit of time off because it’s been such a crazy run,” he says.
To say the least.
—Staff writer Christina C. McClintock can be reached at email@example.com.
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