Paul Teti chooses family over regattas
The title of Olympian is never given. It is earned. The honor of donning one’s national colors and representing his or her country on the Olympic stage is unparalleled in all of sports.
But for those athletes who reach the highest echelons of their respective endeavors, the competition window is painfully narrow and with young talent always threatening to overtake the old guard, there is not always a next time.
Paul Teti of Princeton, N.J., was one of the lucky ones: For him, there were two next-times.
Teti, who manages properties in WAG country, made his debut in Sydney as a member of the U.S. men’s rowing team, following in the footsteps of his brother, Mike – a three-time Olympian, 1988 bronze medalist in his own right and one of the most successful coaches in the history of the USRowing.
Now 12 years later, on the eve of the London games, Paul Teti said he still struggles with the decision to step away from international rowing but adds that he has few regrets.
“It’s a strange feeling. To be honest, I don’t know exactly how I’ll feel when those races start,” Teti said. “I think the athlete in me struggles a bit with the fact that I’m not competing anymore and I’d love to be. But from a personal standpoint, I’m married now, I have two little girls and I don’t know if I could imagine spending any less time with them.”
Four years ago, Teti wasn’t sure whether he would be accompanying his teammates to Beijing as a competitor or a spectator.
At the time, he was already married and had a full-time job with Normandy Real Estate Partners, managing commercial leased properties in northern Virginia, Maryland and Washington D.C.
After rowing through high school in Philadelphia and college at Princeton, Teti twice qualified to race in the men’s lightweight coxless four – rowing-speak for a four-person, weight-restricted boat that lacks a coxswain, or steersman. In Sydney and Athens, his boats placed 6th and 9th, respectively.
But like all athletes, there came a time to hang ’em up, as they say. Or so Teti thought.
After taking some time off from the sport, Teti talked himself into giving it one last shot and after a year of juggling work with a grueling training regimen, he made the cut for the U.S. men’s open-weight coxless four and qualified, at the age of 31, for his third Olympics.
“My wife and I really decided to make a go of it in ’08,” he says. “She was a big part of the reason why I did that and was so supportive of it and involved with it every day.”
This time around, the transition has been made easier for Teti by his responsibilities to his job and to his family. Even so, there is a simplicity to rowing that everyday life lacks, Teti said.
“Athletics – especially rowing, for me – are very pure. It’s a race that has a starting line and a finish line, and if you get there first you win and if you don’t you go home without the medal,” Teti said. “I think in business and other things, the lines are a little blurrier.”
Teti, now senior vice president with Normandy and co-head of the company’s leasing group that manages properties in the tri-state and mid-Atlantic regions, said competing for the U.S. rowing team taught him a vital lesson: That there is no substitute for hard work.
“Rowing is a sport where you train countless hours for a five- or six-minute race, so sometimes it’s hard to see the forest through the trees. You’re so caught up in this training, thinking, ‘All this training for a six-minute race, how does this make sense?’” Teti said.
In the end, whether you’re standing on the medal dock or inking a major deal, the rewards become clear, he said.
Teti and his family have not yet decided whether they will travel to London to support the team. But one can be sure that he will be there in spirit, cheering his teammates and his brother, Mike, who will coach the men’s eight.
For Teti, an Olympics is something that transcends plain old sports.
“My first opening ceremony as an athlete in Sydney was absolutely one of the most incredible experiences that you could ever have,” Teti remembered.
He vividly recalled the feeling of walking alongside NBA coaching legend Larry Brown, tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams, and track star Maurice Greene, overwhelmed with pride.
“I think you realize how special it is to every athlete to have those same feelings of pride in representing your country,” Teti said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re in the NBA making $15 or $20 million a year or if you’re a true amateur athlete. When you get to those opening ceremonies there’s such an incredible feeling of being proud to be an American and to be competing for your country.”
It’s a feeling that Teti and those Olympians who came before him know will never get old.
While the U.S. rowing team prepares to embark for the London Olympics, local youth rowing programs recently wrapped up their spring season at the USRowing Youth National Championships in Oak Ridge, Tenn., in June.
The Pelham Community Rowing Association (PCRA), which is based at Glen Island Park in New Rochelle, offers learn-to-row programs for kids beginning at age 12 in addition to competitive high school programs and both competitive and recreational adult, or master’s, programs.
PCRA qualified five boats for youth nationals this year, of which three made the A-level final and two medaled. In addition, PCRA rowers regularly compete at internationally renowned competitions, including the Royal Canadian Henley in St. Catherines, Ontario, and the Head of the Charles Regatta in Boston, Mass.
Greenwich Crew, which is based out of the Greenwich Water Club, offers learn-to-row, recreational and competitive programs for middle and high school students and for adults.
Greenwich Crew qualified two boats for youth nationals, one of which won the B-level final while the second took third place in the C-level final.
Both clubs offer programs for the spring, summer and fall seasons, with training during the winter months.
Other rowing programs in the region include the Hudson River Rowing Association in Poughkeepsie and the New York Athletic Club Rowing program, which also rows out of Glen Island Park in New Rochelle.
For more information about Greenwich Crew’s rowing programs, visit greenwichwaterclub.com/club_rowing.html or email crew director Michael Wieneke at email@example.com.
For more information about the Hudson River Rowing Association, visit hudsonriverrowing.org.
For more information about NYAC Rowing, visit nyac.org/rowing.