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Prose and Kohn

Sarasota rower on the waterway to 2024 Paris Olympics

Sarasota's Clark Dean (fourth from right) will represent the United States in the men's eight at the 2024 Paris Olympics.
Sarasota's Clark Dean (fourth from right) will represent the United States in the men's eight at the 2024 Paris Olympics.
Image courtesy of Rowing2K
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Sarasota's own Clark Dean technically participated in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, but in his mind, he didn't. 

Sure, he competed. Dean, a rower, represented the United States in the men's 4-boat, which finished fifth overall (5:48.85). But he didn't get the full experience. This was the Olympic games of the COVID-19 pandemic, after all. The event said 2020 in the name, but was delayed to 2021, and even with the wait, safety precautions made it an awkward experience for everyone involved. 

"We didn't talk to anyone outside of the four," Dean said. "We didn't eat with anyone outside of the four. The second we finished racing, we were on a plane home. It was a sterile environment."

The 2024 Paris Olympics will not be like that. The games, which begin in July, have fully moved past the pandemic and will be back to being the extended competition and celebration of athletics that it is renowned to be.

This time, Dean will get to experience it all. 

Dean will represent the U.S. in the men's 8+ boat in Paris. The boat was once the crown jewel of American rowing; starting with the 1920 Olympics in Antwerp, the U.S. won gold medals in the event eight Olympics in a row, ending the streak with the 1960 games in Rome — only to win gold again at the 1964 games in Tokyo. It continued to be a strong event for the Americans for a while, but in recent years, success has been hard to find. The U.S. has not won gold in the event since 2004 in Athens, and has not medaled in the event since taking bronze in 2008 in Beijing.

Clark Dean said his time with the Sarasota Crew got him started down the right path to eventually reach the Olympics.
Image courtesy of USRowing

Dean and his crew mates are hoping to change those fortunes. They recently got a boost of confidence at the 2024 Rowing World Cup II in Lucerne, Switzerland, where the boat finished second (5:25.95) — 0.20 seconds behind Great Britain — against some of the top teams on Earth. 

"You can look at the stopwatch and the wind conditions and the temperature of the water and come up with an idea of what (time) you should be going for, but you never really know until you wind up side-by-side (with the other boats)," Dean said. "We had no clue what was going to happen, but we came out the other side of it excited." 

To get so fast, the rowers in the boat had to get in sync, and with quickness. Though most of the rowers have known each other for a few years, Dean said, this specific combination of people in one boat is new, having been decided on March 25 after a rigorous selection camp process. Dean said that the camp featured "16 to 20" rowers vying for spots in the eight, with coaches cycling through different combinations to find the right one. It's not simply about the strongest rowers or the ones with flawless technique, but about the right group of rowers who, working as one, get the boat going the fastest. Dean likened the boat to a machine, where literally every part of it has to be working exactly as intended, lest it messes up a different part of the machine. 

The boat then officially qualified for the Olympics at a regatta in Lucerne just days prior to the World Cup. 

Dean has received strong rowing education throughout his career, most recently at Harvard University, where he graduated in 2023, but it all began with Sarasota Crew. Looking back on it now, Dean said his rowing education with the Crew got him started on the Olympic path, teaching him not only about what mattered in rowing but about the hard work that would eventually be required of him as an Olympian. That is no surprise: Crew Head Coach Casey Galvanek has made such a name for himself, he is serving as a coach on the U.S. Olympic team for the Paris games. 

"Having an Olympic-level coach from middle school has been a huge advantage," Dean said. "It's funny that it has come full circle in that way." 

Dean said the instruction he received with the Crew is not all that different than the instruction he receives at the international level. Though the intensity of the training might be turned down a few notches, the fundamentals instilled in Crew rowers — the way you move your body and move the stroke through the water, for example — are the same. 

Dean will soon get to use those fundamentals on the world's biggest stage. This time, he'll experience it all. He will get to see Paris. He will get to talk with athletes from other countries. He will eat great food with great friends. It will be, in his words, "the biggest, most distracting festival" possible, and he will be in the middle of it. 

He's going to enjoy it, as he should. But make no mistake: Dean is going with the intent of making Sarasota proud, and bringing back a medal around his neck. 

"We have a real chance," Dean said. "It's a pinch-yourself moment."




Ryan Kohn

Ryan Kohn is the sports editor for Sarasota and East County and a Missouri School of Journalism graduate. He was born and raised in Olney, Maryland. His biggest inspirations are Wright Thompson and Alex Ovechkin. His strongest belief is that mint chip ice cream is unbeatable.

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