Aug. 9, 2012
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Editor’s Note: The 2012 Olympic Games in full-swing in London. Each Olympic year brings back some special memories for four current-day Wildcats: Associate Head Women’s Basketball Coach Kamie Ethridge, Assistant Track Coach Steve Fritz, Director of Track and Field Operations Karol Rovelto and Head Rowing Coach Patrick Sweeney. Today, K-State Sports Extra resumes its Olympic feature of Wildcats in the Olympic Games with the head of the rowing program.
By Mark Janssen
Patrick Sweeney quips, “It just means I’m old.”
Mature is a nicer word, but being a part of six Olympic Games also means that the current Kansas State rowing coach was, and is, highly successful in his craft.
Sweeney’s Olympic experience includes stints with the British and Belgian rowing teams as a competitor and later as coach. He has brought home one silver and one bronze medal, not to mention he’s taken part in eight World Championships in Olympic off years, earning two gold and three silver medals.
“They’re all packed away in a box somewhere,” said Sweeney. “It’s something you accomplish and then move on. It’s not something that you dwell on.”
Laughing Sweeney explained, “You prepare to win a medal, you win it, you come home and put it in a box, go on vacation for three weeks, and then start training for the next major competition. You’re always moving on to the next challenge.”
Making Olympic rowing teams in Britain and Belgium is a multi-year process than it is in America where on a given day you either qualify, or don’t qualify, for the Games in a particular event.
“It’s more of a business in Europe,” said Sweeney. “You are paid a decent salary, so you don’t have to work. It’s something where you start at a young age and work your way to an Olympic boat. It’s a process that is built over years. You don’t just throw a boat together and go compete. It’s something you start preparing and planning for at the age of 16, and by the age of 30, you hope to be on the team.”
Sweeney started his career at the age of 12 for club crew in England. As a coxswain, he progressed his way through the ranks to participate in the eight World Championships, while he competed and/or coached in six Olympiads – 1972, 1976, 1984, 1988, 1992 and 2000. The first five of those were with the British teams and the last with Belgium.
“Competing is always more fun,” said Sweeney. Laughing, he added, “Coaching comes second when you get old and fat.”
Sweeney says that coaches and athletes “don’t panic” about winning and losing, but he does say, “You’re paid a salary, so you better do well enough to get a few wins under your belt.”
Medal-winning rowers may receive bonuses for their performance, but Sweeney said the same is not true for coaches: “We’re paid a salary to do well.”
Like United States Olympians, Sweeney carries through with the theme of “Once an Olympian, always an Olympian.”
And yes, for all countries, the opening ceremonies are fun… to a point.
Laughing, Sweeney said, “The trouble with rowing is that many of our events start at 6 a.m.”
He did add, “Honestly, you don’t see much. You wait outside in a parking lot, you walk in to see the torch lit and you walk back out. You’d be better off staying at home and watching on television. After a couple of them, you don’t really want to go through them again because you don’t see the show, which really is a festival.”
We hope you enjoy K-State Sports Extra. We would like to hear your comments and any story ideas for future emails, so fire them our way. Contact either Mark Janssen or Kansas State Assistant AD for Communications Kenny Lannou.