By Tyler Poslosky | BSU at the Games
U.S. quadruple sculls rowers Elliot Hovey, Peter Graves, Alex Osborne and Wes Plermarini sprinted out of the blocks with the rest of the boats during the repechage heat.
They were right there alongside New Zealand, Italy and Switzerland when disaster struck 350 meters into the first leg of the race.
Permarini, a four-year veteran rower and 2008 Olympian, was positioned at the front when the blade of his oar suddenly became lodged in the water, bringing the boat to dead stop.
“We had a great start; we were right with the field, right where we wanted to be, and then I got a massive boat-stopping crab,” Permarini said in a press release.
Not an animal crab. Permarini was talking about a stroke that simply gets caught under the water.
The delay put the U.S. a length and a half behind the rest of the field. Without hesitating, the four rowers restarted the race and charged after the teams in front of them.
Their adrenaline pushed them back into contention, sprinting with every last bit of energy they had at a rate of more than 40 strokes per minute.
Suddenly, the gap began to narrow.
The four men rowed the second fastest 500-meter sprint on the second quarter and the fastest split in the third quarter to pull within an inch of the Swiss with the finish line on the horizon.
They continued to dig their oars harder and deeper into the water. Faster and faster they went. Their arms were throbbing, but they had to press on.
Despite giving it everything they had, their last-second efforts weren’t enough to overpower the rest of the field.
For Piermarini, Osborne, Graves and Hovey, their Olympic dream came to a halt. They finished fourth with a time of 5:45.62 behind Switzerland, who crossed the line at 5:44.90. New Zealand won the race in 5:43.82, followed by Italy in 5:44.57.
For what seemed like hours, three of the men sat in their boat stunned, while Hovey’s face was buried in his hands.
Years of training for this one race, and not the outcome the group had hoped for.
“Right there, we had the opportunity to role over and die and we said absolutely not, not today,” Hovey said in a press release. “You guys are not getting off easy, and we’re going to come and get it. And that’s exactly what we did.
“We did a start again, and it came naturally. Everyone was on the same page. We were catching it. We could taste it. It got a little ragged at the end, but we went for it and we just fell short.
“I couldn’t be more pleased with the crew and the performance that was done by the guys around me and I would not have chosen to row with another group of guys, and I mean that sincerely.”
The agony of falling short of their goal didn’t strike Osborne until minutes after the race ended.
“It kind of hit me,” Osborne said in a press release. “The regatta is over for us and it’s a terrible feeling. You cross the line and aside from the pain in my legs and forearms, I was overcome with just a pit in my stomach that we were done racing. It’s really tough because we worked so hard for each other. We wanted to keep going, but I’m proud of the way we competed in the end.”
Tyler Poslosky is a senior journalism news major at Ball State University covering sports for BSU at the Games. Follow Tyler and the BSU team at @tylerposlosky, @bsuatthegames andwww.facebook.com/bsuatthegames.