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Brothers in Same Boat Row for Gold

By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md., Aug. 11, 1999 – Two brothers are rowing for gold in the same boat at the 2nd Military World Games in Zagreb, Croatia.

Matt and Greg Provencher are among five rowers who gathered at the U.S. team staging area at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., before heading to the games in Croatia Aug. 5-18. The brothers are alumni of the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., where they honed their rowing skills. They're vying in the men's pairs without coxswain.

Matt, 28, and Greg, 25, have rowed together off and on before, but this marks the first time they've teamed up in competition. "We're excited about having the opportunity to ... represent our country and our military," said Matt, a Naval Reserve lieutenant and 1993 academy grad.

Greg, a Naval Reserve lieutenant junior grade, is a 1997 Annapolis grad. The sons of a 1969 academy graduate, the Provenchers practiced together for a couple of weeks before going to Croatia.

"It's kind of like riding a bike," said Greg, a Barrington, N.H., native. "You take a little break, then get back together. It has worked out well because we mix perfectly in the boat. I row on one side and he'll row the other side. We each have one oar, so it balances us off."

Neither rowed before going to the academy. "Rowing was a fantastic experience, part of the complete academy experience," Matt said. "There was such an emphasis on being well balanced there, and I think rowing completed my life at the academy."

Matt rowed with the academy's varsity lightweights for three years. They won multiple races and a gold medal in the varsity fours in the 1993 national championships. He was then selected for a year's training with the U.S. lightweight national team at the Boston Rowing Center.

"We took a silver medal at the 1994 U.S. nationals and won numerous other races," Matt said. "The team was made up of military and civilian rowers."

Other U.S. rowers in this year's Military World Games are Ensign Laurie Coffey, a 1999 Naval Academy graduate, and Army 2nd Lt. Sabrina Cayton, a graduate of Duke University in Durham, N.C., in the women's doubles; and Air Force Academy graduate 2nd Lt. Amy McCoy, sculling in the women's singles.

Mike Hughes, the Naval Academy's women's varsity coach, coaches the U.S. team in the World Games. He's coached 11 national rowing teams and the 1988 Olympics team in Seoul, Korea. Taking over as coach of the heavyweight freshman team in the fall of 1994, his second frosh squad won the eastern sprints. He became the varsity women's coach in 1998 and finished his first season with a 13-6 record.

"I coached Matt when he was a lightweight and I was a varsity lightweight coach at Navy," Hughes said. "He was one of the toughest and most dedicated training rowers I've ever coached. When he sets his mind on something, he gets it. ... In 1993, he was the leader of the varsity eights, the first winning Navy lightweights team in many years."

Hughes didn't coach Greg, a varsity heavyweight rower, but he knew him well. The younger Provencher was a rower on one of the academy's most successful heavyweight men's varsity eights in many years -- rated second only to Brown University in 1995, Hughes said. Brown has been one of the nation's best collegiate crews for the past 10 years, he noted.

"Joining with his brother creates a team I think epitomizes what the Naval Academy does," Hughes said. "It's also an example of what the armed forces are trying to form in terms of role models."

Hughes predicted the U.S. team will medal in the World Games, but he expects strong competition from the former Eastern Bloc countries. "They put their best athletes in the military, so they're always a challenge for us," he said.

However, he said the Americans may have a better chance at a medal because those countries may save their professional rowers for the 1999 Rowing World Championships in St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada, from Aug. 22-29. "It looks like we're going to be rowing against real military-first athletes, which we all are," Hughes said.

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1999 Military World Games

Click photo for screen-resolution imageNaval Reserve Lt. j.g. Greg Provencher (left) and his brother, Naval Reserve Lt. Matt Provencher (right) pose with rowing coach Mike Hughes at the U.S. team staging area at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., before heading to the Military World Games in Zagreb, Croatia. The Provenchers are teamed in the men's pairs rowing event at the games; they both took up rowing while attending the U.S. Navy Academy, where Hughes works. Photo by Rudi Williams  
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