Gevvie Stone and the road ahead

How Olympic contenders around the world are adapting to an unchartered new reality

3 minute read
Interview Benedict Tufnell
Photos Benedict Tufnell
Published 03.04.20

In a new series of interviews, Row360 catches up with Olympic contenders from around the world to discuss the road ahead in uncertain times. Here we catch up with US sculler Gevvie Stone.

Photo Gevvie Stone (Left) with doubles partner Cicely Madden at the 2019 World Rowing Cup II in Poznan Poland.
Credit Benedict Tufnell

Gevvie Stone won Olympic silver for USA in the women’s single at Rio in 2016. Last summer Stone qualified the US women’s double for Tokyo 2020.

Where are you right now? 

I’m in Cambridge Massachusetts currently. We are all staying at home and all non-essential businesses are closed. Restaurants are all take out only. Its been like this for over a week now, we were one of the fist states in the country to adopt such strict social distancing precautions. Fortunately exercise is still permitted so we are still able to get on the river, in singles, which is wonderful – and my saving grace these days. 

What training are you doing? 

We came up with our female group from Texas, so Kendall Brewer and Cicely Madden are here in Boston training in their singles and then Dara Alizadeh who was President of the Cambridge University crew in the Boat Race last year, who lives in the Boston area, has also joined our workouts. It’s physically impossible to get closer than six feet to each other in our singles, unless you are really trying to nestle in together, so we are able to train together while remaining socially distanced. My dad has been out with us a few times in the launch, also socially distancing himself. We are just crossing our fingers and hoping we continue to be able to do this. 

What was it like to hear that the games were not going to go ahead this summer?  

We saw it coming. When they came out with the news about Canada and Australia it felt like the writing was on the wall. Cicely, Kendall and I were just finishing a workout and listening to the radio and thats when we heard Dick Pound’s statement saying they would likely postpone. Although that wasn’t the official announcement, it seemed pretty official to us. Then my dad came in and we had a meeting standing six feet apart about where we go from here. Training had been ramping up and going very well pre-trials. I was incredibly excited to race – to miss that opportunity was heartbreaking. 

What’s the plan now? 

Firstly we have tamped down the training volume in response to the news. Right now we are just playing it by ear. Especially while the stay at home orders are still in effect. On a personal level I don’t know yet what I am going to do. I was meant to return to my medical residency in August this year, which would have been right after Tokyo, so thats another thing that needs to be looked at now. The choice may yet be taken out of my hands, I could be called in earlier to help the medical effort if required. I was hoping that the rescheduled games in 2021 may be held a little earlier which would have helped my cause and given me some more flexibility to possibly push the start date back. In addition, the idea of keeping up this level of training for another year is a lot for both the mind and body to take on. I told myself I would wait to make any decisions until they announced the new dates for the games, but I still haven’t decided. Im putting that decision off. 

As a doctor I have offered my self up to help medically if required. I would like to be useful, or more useful then I currently am in this state of occasional training, baking and cleaning my apartment. I would like to be helpful to the community if I can. And hopefully, with time now on my side, I could do that and then still get back to training and fit to race in time for the games.

When will you make a decision? 

I haven’t forced myself to a deadline or anything. I am hoping that it comes to me and that I will be happy with the decision. Although I don’t think I am going to feel great about it either way, because either way there is going to be a little bit of loss. Now that the new dates for the games came out yesterday, I need to sit down via phone with my residency leadership team and my parents and really tackle this thing, but I have been putting off that discussion. 

What is happening on the wider US team?

The way it works with USRowing in the single or double or pair, as long as you win trials, you can set your own programme. So I don’t have any prescribed training programme from US rowing at the moment. I know that the eights group has been disbanded. A lot of the athletes have left Princeton – New Jersey is a relative virus hotspot so people are pretty ready to get out of there. Everyone really is training on there own – just maintenance fitness at this point. Which I think is critical because nobody would make it for 15 or 16 months on all out training before getting to race again. Its a long time to keep it up. 

How are you adapting to the whole situation? 

Its a whole new world that we live in now. I am amazed how most people are abiding by regulations and I hope that encourages the remaining few who aren’t yet to do so. Its definitely going to alter everyone who gets through it and the world in ways we don’t even know yet. Already emissions are down more than anyone thought possible. So I’m focussing on the small things as much as I can, because thats what keeps me going and keeps me positive among all the greater unknowns. Im also going to adopt a puppy, so that should help.