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There are 555 athletes on the United States Olympic team at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.

822JoshKonieczny
Team USA rower Josh Konieczny..
(Photo courtesy Team USA)

How many of those athletes, however, competed in the men’s lightweight double sculls? How many were the class valedictorian at St. John’s Jesuit High School and graduated from Dartmouth College?

Better yet, how many Olympic athletes grew up in Millbury, Ohio?

Josh Konieczny, 25, a Millbury native, teamed with Andrew Campbell Jr. to place fifth in the men's lightweight double sculls rowing competition on Friday, Aug. 12 at Lagoa Stadium in Rio.

“We’re very pleased with our finish,” said Konieczny, who graduated from St. John’s Jesuit in 2009 and earned an economics degree from Dartmouth in 2013. “The goal was to make it to the A final (top six). Once we were in the final, we wanted to see what would happen. It was nice to finish ahead of Poland because they out-sprinted us last year at the World Championships. We kind of took revenge on them.”

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Josh Konieczny, far right in the stroke seat, with his Dartmouth
University rowing team. (Courtesy Dartmouth University athletics)

The U.S. boat, which was piloted by Konieczny, took fifth in 6:35:07. The Americans were a close second behind Pierre Houin and Jeremie Azou of France at 1,000 meters - or halfway through the race – before Konieczny and Andrews began to tail off. The French duo won the gold medal in 6:30.70.

Ireland took the silver medal (6:31.23), Norway won the bronze (6:31.39) and South Africa took fourth (6:33.29), just ahead of Konieczny and Andrews, who hails from New Canaan, Conn.

“What through our minds at the start was the slow starts we had in the prior two races,” said the 5-foot-11, 160-pound Konieczny. “We kind of got jumped off the line. We wanted to be in the race and not give away too much. It was a fast but draining first 1,000. The Irish started to sprint at around 750 meters and the whole field kind of went with the Irish. We paid for it after 1,000 meters. We didn’t have the legs to sprint with them.”

Konieczny’s previous best finish with Campbell was eighth place out of 24 crews in lightweight doubles at the 2015 World Championships.

“Early in the year we were in Lucerne, Switzerland, for a preliminary race and we were eight seconds behind the leaders,” Konieczny said. “We had a sense we didn’t belong in the A final, where the top six boats (race). Every rowing course has six lanes and they have to weed out the top six. It was so far off the pace (in the A final) that we didn’t rally have a shot at a medal at that race.

“In Rio, crossing the 1,000-meter mark, we were in second or third and we were much more satisfied with our performance. We felt we belonged with those competitors and we were able to push them a little bit. The Irish have been doing very well this year. For them to get second was a real surprise. They were 11th last year at the world championships, and only 11 qualified to the Olympics.”


Training on ‘The Charles’
Konieczny and Campbell trained for the Olympics on the Charles River in Boston. They are the first U.S. lightweight double sculls team to qualify for the Olympics.

“Each qualifying round you had to be in the top three to advance,” Konieczny said. “We were second in the heat and second again in the semifinal. Taking second in the semifinal was surprising. I did not expect to beat the Irish. We designed our program to really peak in the semifinal. We knew we had to lay it on the line in the semifinal. There is a big difference between the heat and the semifinal. The semifinal hurt more, just from pulling harder.”

Konieczny said the 2,000-meter race takes a toll on the rowers’ bodies.

“Right before you cross the finish line, it feels like everything is on fire,” he said. “Lactic acid accumulates and makes everything burn. You cross the line and your legs go limp and you sit there for a while, really short of breath. It’s pretty exhausting. That’s the thing I like least about rowing - the pain kind of sticks with you after the race and you have to sit there about 10 to 15 minutes before it goes away.”

Konieczny and Campbell, 24, have been training together for two years.

“It has worked out really well,” Konieczny said. “We both have a scientific approach to rowing. Every day is about finding efficiencies we can take advantage of. We hang out with different people, but we took advantage of it because we didn’t get sick of each other.”

Konieczny left the States for Rio on July 26 and stayed in the Olympic Village. He returned to Millbury on Monday.

“I was pleasantly surprised by the Village,” Konieczny said. “The hotel was fine and there were no mechanical programs. I was concerned about the food and didn’t want to get sick and not be able to perform. The food was good. It was free and we ate a lot of it. I don’t know of any athlete who got sick. They (organizers) did a good job making sure they kept everything safe and sanitary.”

Konieczny said the water was fine as well. Rio, which has a population of more than six million people, had been criticized for its poor water quality in and around the city. Konieczny said he thought those reports were overblown.

“Reports of body parts and raw sewage, at least when we were there, was exaggerated,” he said. “There was no debris in the water. One day it rained and there was some black film on the boat, but I don’t know of any rowers who got sick. That speaks to the fact that the water was relatively safe.”

Konieczny, the son of Tim and Joyce Konieczny, currently works for a software company and plans to move to Chicago to be with his girlfriend, Angela Cheng. His rowing career, it appears, is over.

“The deal I made with Angela was I would pursue one Olympic cycle and then come to live with her,” Konieczny said. “The last three years have been a strain. We both knew that going in, and I was OK with that. I feel like I’m done with rowing and not having that be the central part of my life.”

Pic-JoshKonieczny1
Team USA rower Josh Konieczny. (Photo courtesy Team USA)

Pic-JoshKonieczny2
Josh Konieczny, far right in the stroke seat, with his Dartmouth University rowing team. (Courtesy Dartmouth University athletics)

 

 

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