“When you’re moving the boat correctly, it’s as close as humans can get, in a way, to flying,’’ said Gevvie Stone. “You’re moving faster than you can by your own power. And when you get it right it’s just, it’s a really amazing sensation.’’
Stone took her boat, which she’d carried down from the Radcliffe boathouse ramp, off of her strong shoulders and put it into the water. She’s six feet tall and her arms are well-defined, her legs strong and lean. It was a sunny, unusually warm day in October the week before the Head of the Charles Regatta, and Stone was heading out for her second daily training session. She’d biked over from her apartment in Cambridge, where she’s living while she trains for the upcoming 2016 Olympic Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro. She recently completed four years of med school.
For the majority of Americans, either training for the Olympics or going to medical school is a daunting task. Stone decided to do both at the same time.
Rowing runs through the Newton native’s blood. Her mother Lisa rowed in the 1976 Olympics, and her father Gregg would’ve competed in Moscow in 1980 had the U.S. not boycotted the games. Stone rowed in high school at The Winsor School, an all-girls prep school in Boston where her mother was her coach. She went on to Princeton University, where she rowed in a boat of eight to an undefeated season her junior year, in addition to winning numerous championship races throughout her career.
After college, Stone trained for the Olympic team that would head to Beijing in 2008. But when the team was announced, her name wasn’t on the roster.
“I wasn’t sure whether I’d keep rowing,’’ she said. “It’s hard to dedicate yourself fully to making the team and then not make it. I just kind of had a hard time with it.’’
In 2008, Stone enrolled at Tufts University’s medical school, thinking she’d hung up her competitive oars for good. But her father convinced her to go out rowing with him in a single he’d bought her as a graduation present, and she realized how helpful getting out on the river was in relieving the stress of school.
The same year she’d hoped to be competing in Beijing, she won the Head of the Charles in women’s singles.
“That was the turning point,’’ Stone said. “Where I thought, ‘Wow, maybe I could do this again.’’’
After rowing throughout the first two years of med school, Stone realized she couldn’t go to school and train for such an elite competition at the same time. So she took two years off (“Tufts has been so supportive’’) and, with her dad as her coach, trained for the 2012 London Olympics. She made the team and placed seventh overall. She then went back to Tufts and completed her rotations.
Since 2014, Stone has been training for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games, taking two more years off before beginning her residency. Her father is still her coach, and she’s since placed fourth in the World Championships, as well as earning medals at her second and third World Cups.
“It’s kind of shocking,’’ Stone said. “I still don’t really believe it. But now that I’ve gotten a taste of it, hopefully there are more chances to get up on that podium.’’
With her boat in the water, Stone put her sunglasses on and hooked her oars into their oarlocks. The wind was stronger than she’d like, but she said that’s common in the afternoon. Since she won last year’s Head of the Charles, she’ll be starting first this year, and hopes to defend her throne.
“I’m so lucky to have such a great race on my home turf,’’ she said. “It’s pretty cool.’’
But it won’t last forever. Rio is only ten months away and, after that, Stone will retire from her illustrious career on the world rowing circuit.
“All these rows this September, I was like, just enjoy it. You know Boston in September, it’s beautiful. These calm days, no wind, 60 degrees. It’s just perfect.’’
“So yeah,’’ she said. “It’s sad.
Stone pushed off from the dock and waved before grabbing her oars and dipping the blades into the water. Looking behind her, she aimed her boat through an arch of the Anderson Memorial Bridge.
She rounded the bend and disappeared from view, cruising down the river she grew up on where she’s still chasing greatness.