Going for Gold: Olivia Coffey set to represent Team U.S.A in women’s rowing

Japan 2020

(WETM) – From Burdett to Tokyo, Olivia Coffey has trained for this moment for the past 10 years. Born in Corning, but raised in Schuyler County, she will represent the Southern Tier on the Olympic stage on Team U.S.A in the Women’s Eight rowing competition. An alternate in the 2016 Rio Games, Coffey is excited for the opportunity to compete.

After leaving the area for high school and college, Coffey returned to Watkins Glen amid the COVID-19 pandemic, training and practicing on the Seneca Lake inlet.

“I was training in Watkins Glen, I was lifting with a local teacher. I was rowing on the inlet. I was basically training on my own,” Coffey said.

She grew up playing basketball and hockey, but rowing was in her DNA. Her dad, Calvin, was an Olympic Silver Medalist in the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games in the Men’s Rowing Pair. Competition and the Olympic legacy run deep in her family.

“Sometimes we will be competing and stuff I’d say, ‘Yea Dad look what I did.’ He would [jokingly] say, ‘Well when you’ve won an Olympic silver medal, then you can talk to me.’ I want to say look I got a gold,” she continued with a laugh.

Not only will she be representing the Southern Tier on the International Stage, but also female athletes around the United States during a time when women are fighting for equity in sports.

“When you step back and look at the national media coverage, you realize how behind women’s athletics are. That’s something I struggled with playing ice hockey,” she added.

Coffey competed in high school hockey, but never understood why she was not allowed to check. Those rules discrepancies really bothered her, but the water provides an equal playing field for men and women. It is a race of speed and power.

This year at the Olympic Games there are more races for women, making it more equitable because more women will be able to attend the Games. This equal opportunity for women is something Coffey wished for five years ago in Rio when she was an alternate. If more women could attend, she may have made the team.

“2021 will be the first Olympics’ that men and women will have equal opportunity in rowing. They have changed some of the events so men and women can have equal numbers. That’s really encouraging to see,” she added. “As an alternate in 2016, if they had a high equal opportunity for women, I maybe could’ve gone.”

Her Southern Tier roots still hold strong as she prepares for the biggest race of her career. The U.S. Women’s Eight is vying for their fourth straight gold medal, something Coffey says she would share with her community.

“If I do well there [in Tokyo], then the community gets a piece of that too. I hope they enjoy it as much as I do,” she concluded.

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