Rowing to Rio

Not long after their successful athletic careers at the University of Virginia, five former student athletes will compete at the 2016 Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Former Virginia rowers Inge Janssen (2010), Christine Roper (2011), Matt Miller (2011), and Susanne Grainger (2013), and distinctive two-sport athlete Meghan O’Leary (2008) will row their way through Brazilian waters in August.


In addition to the five athletes, two-time National Coach of the Year recipient and head coach of the Virginia rowing program, Kevin Sauer, will take the role of an assistant coach.

Janssen will compete for the Netherlands in her second Olympic games in the women’s quad. The Dutch rower competed in the double sculls at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London and began competing internationally in 2011.

Roper and Grainger are set to represent Canada in their first Olympic games in the women’s eight event. Both contributed to Canada’s silver medal at the World Rowing Cup in Varese, Italy in April earlier this year, and both athletes were part of the team that earned the silver medal in the Women’s eight competition at the 2014 World Rowing Championships in Amsterdam. During their careers at UVa, both earned second-team All America honors. While this is their Olympic debut, Roper began competing internationally in 2010 and Grainger entered the international field in 2011.

O’Leary, a former softball and volleyball player at UVa, will make her Olympic rowing debut for the United States in August, only six years after picking up an oar for the first time. O’Leary and teammate Ellen Tomek qualified for Rio with their first place finish at the U.S Olympic Trials in Sarasota, Fla. in April 2016, and the pair will be coached by Sauer in the women’s double sculls.

Sauer initially attempted to persuade O’Leary to row early on in her career at UVa, but did not begin rowing until 2010, two years after she graduated. She began competing internationally in 2013 and has earned two silver medals in the women’s double sculls at the 2014 World Rowing Cup II in Aiguebelette, France and at the 2015 World Rowing Cup II in Varese, Italy.

This will be the first Olympic games for Sauer, who has led the Hoos to two NCAA championships and 16 ACC titles in his 20 years as head coach. Additionally, he has earned 10 ACC Coach of the Year honors, competed collegiately for Purdue, and served as a member of the U.S. National Rowing Team in 1975 and 1977.

Former four-year member of the Virginia Men’s club rowing team, Miller will also make his Olympic debut for the United States in the men’s four. The Springfield, Va native began competing internationally in 2013, is a two-time member of the U.S senior national team, and won the gold medal at the 2016 World Rowing Cup 1 in Varese, Italy for the men’s four event.

The 2016 Olympic Rowing events will take place in the Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon in Rio from August 6 to August 13. Tune in to watch the former Cavaliers compete on the world’s largest stage.


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