In a shaded corner of Harsha Lake, 25 miles east of Cincinnati, Andy Sudduth sat in his crimson shell on Saturday and awaited the starter's commands. Behind him, seven rows of white buoys stretched like runway lights to the finish line 2,000 meters away. Sudduth, a 26-year-old Harvard graduate, had come to the Cincinnati Regatta as the heavy favorite to win the U.S. team's Olympic berth in the single sculls. John Biglow, who had finished fourth in the single sculls at the 1984 Olympics and was expected to give Sudduth some of his stiffest competition, was asked what it would take to beat Sudduth. "He'd have to hit a buoy and flip," said Biglow. "And then I might catch him."
If Sudduth needed inspiration, he could have found it earlier in the afternoon when his alma mater's varsity eight became the first crew to repeat as intercollegiate champions, beating out Northeastern by 1.09 seconds. During college Sudduth had stroked Crimson eights to intercollegiate titles in 1983 and '85 and made a name for himself as one of America's finest rowers. His crowning achievement came in 1984 when he rowed on the U.S. eight that won the silver medal at the Los Angeles Games.
But upon graduation Sudduth wanted a new challenge. In September 1985, three months after getting his degree in computer science, he went to the world championships in Hazewinkel, Belgium, for his first major competition in single sculls. With 200 meters to go, he had been a second up on three-time Olympic champion Pertti Karppinen of Finland when his right hand hit his thigh and he lost control of an oar. By the time Sudduth had stopped and squared up again, Karppinen had swept past him, winning by 2.7 seconds.
For much of last year Sudduth was troubled by a sore rib cage and finished a disappointing seventh at the world championships in Copenhagen in August. By November his ribs had healed, and he reduced his work load as a computer analyst at Harvard to 20 hours a week to devote more time to rowing. In April of this year he beat Karppinen by almost four seconds at an international regatta in Piediluco, Italy.
June 19, 1988
Sudduth's ability to sprint has always been one of his greatest assets, and he used it on Saturday to jump off to an early lead. By the halfway point, he led Dan Brisson, a tree surgeon from the Bronx, by four seconds. Sudduth was never threatened. He crossed the line' in 6:45.47, 6.58 before the second-place Brisson and 10.53 ahead of Biglow, who finished third.
"I rowed hard," Sudduth said, "but it wasn't a great performance, not compared with races in which I had to do everything I could in the final 400 meters." One suspects that Sudduth will find himself in precisely those circumstances during the Seoul Olympics. After the Games, he says he will return to Harvard to pursue the master's in computer science he postponed in order to train for the Olympics. "You put your life on hold," he says. "It happens to everyone in rowing, though Anne Marden might bean exception."
Marden, a 30-year-old Princeton alumna, is an exception to many rules. Without question, she's one of the most driven people in rowing or any other sport. She works full-time as a financial analyst for J.P. Morgan in London. "Anne is incredible," says Kris Korzeniowski, the technical director for the U.S. rowing team. "She travels—London, Paris, San Francisco, New York—and she always finds time between flights to go to local clubs to borrow boats. It's amazing." He shakes his head. "But I have one question: Is she doing too much?"
Marden didn't seem to be overdoing things four weeks earlier, when she won the women's single sculls Olympic trials on Lake Mercer, near Princeton, N.J., by nine seconds. By entering the double sculls last week, she hoped to become the first woman to compete for the U.S. in two Olympic rowing events. Her goal made some oarswomen so angry that they wrote letters to U.S. Rowing, the sport's national governing body, requesting that Marden be allowed to enter only one event in Seoul. U.S. Rowing decided to postpone its decision until after Saturday's final. Hence, Marden and her partner, Barb Kirch, 28, of Philadelphia, felt they needed to win decisively to put the issue to rest.
From the start of the race it was clear that Marden and Kirch weren't going to have an easy time. Earlier in the week they had narrowly lost their heat to a pair of Californians, Monica Havelka, 32, of Lomita and Cathy Tippett, 31, of Irvine. Although Marden and Kirch won their semifinal on Friday, their time was only third fastest among the qualifiers and just slightly faster than that of Havelka and Tippett, who qualified for the six-boat final by finishing third in the other semi. "It's going to be hard," said Kirch of the final. "There were some real sleepers in the semis—like Monica and Cathy."
Kirch's concern proved well founded. She and Marden led the final by more than a second after 500 meters. But Havelka and Tippett started gaining over the middle 1,000 meters, and they crossed the finish line in 7:04.20, more than six seconds ahead of Kirch and Marden, who were second. "Every time we made a move, those guys came with us," said Kirch. "They were in control, and you could feel it."
Havelka is a junior high school teacher who took up rowing in 1981 to get in shape for AAU basketball. An all-conference center for Cal State-Long Beach in the late '70s, she once won a free throw contest by sinking 98 of 100 attempts. Seoul will be Havelka's first Olympics, but Tippett has been named to every U.S. Olympic team since women's rowing was added to the Games in '76. Oh, yes, she also breeds parrots for a living.
The most remarkable thing about Havelka and Tippett, though, is that they competed this year at all. "You might call us the adversity twins," says Havelka, who broke both her arms in January when she tripped over her mother's dog during a training run. Tippett fell mysteriously ill before the 1984 Olympics and finished an exhausted sixth in the double sculls. Later that year, her illness was diagnosed as the Epstein-Barr virus, a disease whose symptoms are similar to mononucleosis. She wasn't able to resume full training until last fall.
Saturday's race took a heavy toll on Tippett. She sat dazed in the medical tent, grateful that Havelka was doing the talking for her. Tippett had already done much more than had been expected of her. Not far away, Sudduth, who had merely done what was expected of him, was content, too.
"I can't exceed anyone's expectations," he had said the night before the finals. "But just because you can't do that, doesn't mean that what you've done isn't worthwhile."