VT Company Helps Rowers Go for Gold in Rio

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While only 3 athletes competing in the summer games have Vermont ties, the Green Mountain State is making a mark in Rio.

For 40 years a company out of Morrisville, Vermont has been helping rowers go for gold.  The group says they’re used to success, but they’ll never stop innovating for their sport.

“We start with a raw shaft, glue the blade on, put a sleeve on, cut to length, and put the handles in,” explained Skip Ward.  He has worked at Concept 2 in Morrisville for 16 years.  He says If you haven’t heard of it, you’re not alone, “People right here in Morrisville, I tell them where I work and they ask me where that is, they didn’t know about it.  What’s Concept 2,” Ward joked.

For 40 years, Concept 2 has been making world-class rowing oars for teams across the globe.  Their products were on display at this year’s Summer Games.  “Oars are sort of this accessory item that people don’t pay much attention to, but we think we can make a better oar,” reminisced Dick Dreissigacker. 

He and his brother Peter, both engineers and rowers, created the company in 1976.  Their goal was to give themselves a leg-up while on the water.  “It was really from making a secret weapon for ourselves, then people seeing it and thinking this is something that would work,” added Peter.

The company manufactures and assembles each piece of every customizable-oar.  They also build and sell rowing training equipment, models and designs they created themselves geared towards rowers and skiers.

“It {the oars} is the transmission that propels a boat.  The person is the engine, oars are the transmission,” explained Dick, his brother built on that statement saying, “There’s no stability to these boats whatsoever except for the oars.  It’s like the guy on a tight rope with the big long stick.”

Former USA Olympian Judy Geer was one of the first athletes to use Concept 2 oars.  An encouragement made by her coach in 1975.  “You need to come to Vermont and try these new skulls these brothers up in Vermont are making.  They’re lighter and they’re stiffer and I just think they’re better.  We went up and we tried them and we were convinced.  We rowed with them ever since,” she stated. 

Geer is now married to Dick, and is a co-owner of the company.  She says their business keeps them in close contact with Olympians around the world.  “We have interesting opportunities to meet those athletes and talk with them and connect with them.  Sometimes they’ll even come here, visit the factory and choose their oars,” Geer said.

“Three-quarters of the medals were won by stuff that comes out of Morrisville, and that’s kind of cool,” said Peter.  Seventy-six percent to be exact, won with Concept2 oars in Rio.  That includes 9 gold medals.  “It’s kind of an honor to think that somebody won a gold medal and I had a hand in it,” contemplated Ward.

US Olympian Gevvie Stone just took home a silver medal in Women’s Single Sculls in Rio.  She did it in a time of 7 minutes, 22 seconds.  And she earned a spot on the podium with a Concept 2 oar in hand.

Click the links to learn more about Concept2, and rowing at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
 

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