Third in a series of previews,
leading to the Olympics.
PAUL TETI never thought about making the trip to Beijing following a disappointing ninth overall finish at the Olympics in Athens.
As a member of the men's lightweight four, Teti felt that he and his boat teammates had underperformed and made mistakes.
It was his second Olympics and it was not the way the 31-year-old from Upper Darby wanted to end a long and successful career on the U.S. national team.
Teti had a career in real estate to pursue, and it seemed like time to step aside. After 4 years at Monsignor Bonner High, 4 years at Princeton, eight national teams, including two Olympics, Teti felt he was done.
Beijing was 4 years away and that was more time than he wanted to commit to training.
"Prior to last July, I don't think I had any realistic plans of competing in another Olympics," Teti said. "I wouldn't say that I didn't want to, I just didn't see how it would be possible for me."
So much for that decision. Today, Teti, the younger brother of U.S. head coach Mike Teti, is in Beijing and rowing in the U.S. four.
Teti was convinced that he wouldn't row in China. The problem was, he is a lifelong rower, with experience and skill and an aerobic base that would last for years, and all it took was getting him back in a boat.
That happened when he committed to helping David Banks, a 25-year-old Stanford graduate who had trained with Teti and was hoping to make the Olympic team.
"David had been cut from the [national team] and he was sort of an up-and-coming guy that had what he would consider an outside shot at this year, but probably had more long-term goals," Teti said.
So Teti started rowing a pair (two-man sweep boat) with Banks and before long he found himself getting fitter and going faster.
"When I started training, I was just trying to get back into better shape. My bigger goal was to try to help David a little bit technically," he said. "As we started going, the times started getting a little faster and we started showing better and better speed and before you know it, you're right in the mix with the rest of the guys.
"Rowing with David that first month or so we spent together, there wasn't as much pressure on us. It was just the two of us training. But as we started to post some faster times, I started thinking, 'Wow, maybe this is a possibility,' ''
Teti and Banks stayed in the pair and reached out to a friend and legendary Philadelphia and international rowing coach, Ted Nash, and the die was cast.
Nash, who lives an hour south of the U.S. training center in Mercer County, N.J., drove up every morning to work with Teti and Banks, and by last fall he had the men moving their boat with speed.
As the two got faster, Nash e-mailed the results to the national team coaches and managed to get them invited to the winter training camp at Clemson University.
One thing led to another, and both Teti and Banks made the team in the four.
"Paul is one of the most positive guys I have ever coached," said Nash. "In all my years of coaching, I have only coached five guys like him. Paul started rowing last fall to help out a guy [Banks] who had been cut from the camp. I had a bunch of pairs I was coaching and I invited them to join us.
"He started going fast and I called his brother [Mike] at the training camp at Clemson and told him, 'I've got your brother up here and he's back in shape and kicking everyone's [butt].' He said if they are that good, then send them down. So they went to the camp and made the team. He's a great story."
"I'm anticipating this being the end of my competitive rowing career," Paul Teti said. "It's been a really fun group of guys to train with, the team as a whole and also this four specifically.
"The enthusiasm of the group is really high and I'm trying to just enjoy every bit of it. My first Olympics [in 2000 in Sydney, Australia], I was pretty young and sort of in awe of the process. I think overall we performed in a pretty tough event [sixth overall in the lightweight four].
"I think the last time, you don't realize it at the time but looking back on it we made some mistakes going into it and I don't think we had our best performance at the games. That can be a little bit of a disappointing way to end things.
"This year, the training has gone well and I'm just trying to take a step back and enjoy it a little bit." *