Olympics are experience of a lifetime

U. S. rowing team member Nick LaCava of Weston (center) recently returned from competing in the Olympics in England earlier this month. LaCava was in the men’s lightweight four boat that finished second in the B finals. Making the trip to watch him were his father John, mother Zizi, brother Lukas and cousin Mark Capeless.—Katharine Huber photo

He may not have gotten a medal but Nick LaCava brought something else back from his trip to the Olympics in Great Britain this summer.

In one respect all the years of training and dedication paid off for the 25-year-old Weston native and member of the U.S. men’ rowing team. He earned the opportunity to compete on a world stage and the experience that goes with it.

“It was pretty cool,” said LaCava, who returned to the U.S. on Aug. 17. “Overall, it was a really good experience.”

LaCava was selected for the U.S. men’s lightweight four team, one of 13 from around the world to earn a spot in this event at the Olympics.

Although he and his teammates did not have their first race until Aug. 28 they made the trip to England 10 days earlier to continue to train and get used to the course. All the rowing events were held at Eton Dorney Rowing Centre, about an hour’s drive outside of London.

The day after the opening ceremonies on July 27, LaCava and his teammates had their first race. Competing in the first heat, the U.S. had a sluggish start, taking fifth in 6:02.42 and last overall. However, the team still had a chance to redeem itself in the repechage round the next day.

“We just didn’t have a good race,” he said. “Our start wasn’t very good. Also, we had a tough heat.”

But they quickly learned from the race. They fared much better the next day in the repechage round. By cutting more than a second off their time, LaCava and the rest of the team placed first to keep their chances for a medal alive.

After the repechage the U.S. men’s lightweight four qualified for the A semifinals. A fifth-place finish would put it in the B finals and out of medal competition. There they placed second behind France and eighth overall in the field.

The U.S. rowing team did bring home several medals, however. The women’s eight team captured the gold medal while the men’s four and the women’s quad both placed third to take the bronze in their respective events.

While rowing in major competitions is nothing new to LaCava nothing could compare to the atmosphere of the Olympics. Instead of competing in front of crowds numbering in the hundreds, he and his teammates were now watched by several thousand spectators.

“Getting to row in front of a crowd like that was really awesome,” he said.

Among those watching him were his parents John and Zizi, his brother Lukas and his cousin Mark Capeless, all of whom had made the trip.

In between and after the races LaCava had the opportunity to get to know other rowers from around the world. Many he had previously met from earlier competitions.

“Everyone’s really nice,” he said. “It’s great meeting people from other countries.”

Since rowing was completed within the first week of Olympics LaCava had plenty of time to enjoy the rest of the games as a spectator. He watched several events, including track and field, wrestling, basketball and boxing.

Now back in the states, LaCava plans to take some time off from rowing. He also plans to devote some more time to the business he helped found, LetterPeg, an online learning marketplace.

“It’s been such a long journey,” he said. “I need some time to recover.”

When he does get back to rowing, LaCava may decide to try out for the Olympics again. In any case he is grateful to have the chance to compete in this year’s games.

“It’s been an awesome chapter in my life,” he said. “I feel blessed that I had the opportunity. I could never have done it without the support of my family.”

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