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Row, row, row your Olympic boat

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Rowing continues to be dominated by East Coast athletes, but several Californians -- and out-of-towners who’ve been training in the Golden State -- are among 45 rowers who will compete in the Beijing Games next month.

USRowing, which is based in Princeton, N.J., is sending 13 boats to the Summer Games.

Californians on the Beijing-bound rowing team include Scott Gault (Piedmont) in the men’s quadruple sculls; Mike Altman (Marin County) in the lightweight men’s fours; and Mary Whipple (Sacramento) and Erin Cafaro (Modesto) in the women’s eight. Warren Anderson (Paso Robles), Rachel Jeffers (Los Gatos), Julie Nichols (Livermore) and Brett Sickler (Los Gatos) were named as alternates.

Gault has been training at the California Rowing Club, which is based at the historic Ky Ebright Boathouse in the T. Gary Rogers Rowing Center on the shore of the Oakland Estuary. The boathouse that was built in 1925 recently was refurbished.

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Massachusetts residents Elliot Hovey and Wes Piermarini have been living in the Bay Area and training at the California Rowing Club for more than a year. The effort paid off for the pair on July 6, when they won the Double Sculls Challenge Cup at the Henley Royal Regatta, the oldest continually held rowing event in the world. (Donny Simkin, a rower from Northridge, also competed in the double sculls.)

‘The quality of competitors, the tradition and the throngs of rowing enthusiasts make the Henley Royal Regatta unique in the world,’ said Rich Hallock, executive director of the California Rowing Club. ‘The CRC’s debut at Henley is successful and the experience is good for our athletes as they prepare for the World Championships and the Olympic Games in the coming weeks.’

If you don’t know very much about rowing, you’re not alone; rowers don’t practice under the bright lights.

‘They’re padding down the dock at 6:30 in the morning, they row into the fog on the Oakland Estuary, and don’t come back until about 8:30 a.m., when everyone else is heading off to work,’ Hallock said. ‘They’re about as low-profile as you could be.’

-- Greg Johnson


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