If you were Alex Taaffe, you’d be preparing for the trip of a lifetime. Right now, you’d be packing your suitcase full of racing gear and traveling to Brive-La-Gaillarde, France, to represent the United States at the 2009 FISA World Rowing Junior Championships.
And, if Taaffe, team captain of Sarasota Crew and the 2009 state single sculling champion, tells you that he’s won “a few” rowing races around the country, he’s just being modest. Taaffe’s medal collection encompasses almost 120 medals that hang from wall posts in his bedroom, with the medals and shirts from the most important races scattered around his parents’, Mike and Tammy, house in picture frames.
Last summer, Taaffe was invited to the U.S. Rowing’s Development Camp and competed in the CanAmMex Games, winning gold in both the Fours (four-rower boat, plus a coxswain, the person who steers the boat) and the Eights (eight-rower boat, plus a coxswain).
In June, Taaffe was invited to the U.S Rowing Selection Camp, in Princeton, N.J.
After rowers endured day after day of grueling practices and seat racing, U.S. National Team coaches narrowed the selection from 28 rowers down to 14 who will represent the country in the Eights, Fours and the Pair — Taaffe is a member of the Eights team.
Now training at the Peddie School, in Hightstown, N.J., Taaffe wakes every morning at 4:50 a.m., boards a bus at 5:20 and is on the water by 5:50. His team rows for about two hours, eats breakfast and rests, then repeats the process at 2:30 p.m. Somehow, Taaffe still finds time for running and core exercises, such as sit-ups and push ups. He may have only had two days off this summer, but he’s still smiling.
Life is good for Taaffe. A recent graduate of Pine View School, he will attend and row for Princeton University in the fall.
Taaffe left for France Wednesday, July 29. He’ll practice on the racecourse there for one week before the regatta’s opening ceremonies Aug. 3. Approximately 50 nations compete in the men’s and women’s events during the championship, which has been held since 1967. This year’s location in south-central France is home to many worldwide competitions, including the Tour de France.
“I’m one of the smaller guys on the boat, so I sit in the front,” Taaffe said. “I’m responsible for keeping good rhythm and I’m the first person to cross the line. If we win, I get to finish the race before everyone else.”
If Taaffe’s team takes first place, the United States national anthem will play on the podium, similar to the Olympics. Finals will be held Aug. 8, with closing ceremonies and an athletes’ reception to follow.
“It’s such a huge honor to be representing the U.S. at a world regatta and to be one of the top-eight junior rowers in the country,” Taaffe said. “It has all worked out through hard work and discipline.”
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