Editor’s note: This article by Kayla Friedrich was first published in the Stowe Reporter on Sept. 2, 2016.
With the help of Concept2 oars and sculls, 32 rowing crews — 76 percent of all medal-winning crews at the Olympic regatta — were able to step onto the platform in Rio de Janeiro to receive their awards this year.
Nine of those medals were gold.
Concept2 is one of the world’s most prominent manufacturers of lightweight oars. They’re built by former U.S. Olympian Dick Dreissigacker and his brother Pete in Morrisville.
The company also produces an indoor rowing machine, and all of the athletes have trained on the Concept2 Indoor Rower to build their fitness to Olympic caliber.
The company produces 80 to 90 percent of the world’s market of competition oars, and it sends an accredited technician — Bob Beeman of Morrisville — to the Olympics to make any equipment repairs the athletes need.
Sometimes oars are damaged in transit, practice or a race, and Beeman is able to provide replacement parts and adjustments if requested.
Thanks to his decades of work at the company, Beeman became a five-time Olympian this year, not competing, but helping teams — regardless of what country they represent.
“Everything we do is free of charge,” Beeman said. “It’s all part of the service when using Concept2 oars.
“Some of the athletes look at me like I’m Santa Claus. There are 70 countries in rowing, and we try to even the playing field. One team didn’t have good oars to use at the Olympics, so we lent some out.”
Beeman has been the on-site technician for Concept2 at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996; Sydney, Australia, in 2000; Beijing, China, in 2008; London in 2012; and now Rio.
As a result, he’s known some of the athletes for many years.
“Athletes want to know that there is nothing wrong with their equipment, and they rely on me. It makes me so proud,” Beeman said.
U.S. rower Gevvie Stone was at the Concept2 tent every day, not because she needed repairs, but because it gave her a place to relax. Beeman said Stone’s father thanked him profusely. Stone took silver in the women’s single sculls using Concept2 oars.
Beeman also was able to wear a gold medal at this year’s events. The gold-medal winning team from New Zealand, Eric Murray and Hamish Bond, returned to the tent following their men’s pair final. Murray took off his gold medal and placed it over Beeman’s head for a photo-op.
“Just to be around this level of athlete is amazing,” Beeman said. “They train daily, many of them two or three times a day at a few hours each time. They train like that not just for months, but for years.”
For Beeman, Rio was the best of the five Olympics that he has been to. Everything worked well logistically, there were over 200 volunteers assisting at the rowing venue, and he had a chance to watch some of the other events, including water polo and table tennis.
“It was great to be right in the middle of it all,” Beeman said.
This was also the first Olympics at which Beeman was officially recognized for his work. Even a senior adviser thanked him, and “that was a big deal,” he said.
Before leaving Brazil, Beeman received a thank-you medal and a certificate from the International Olympic Committee for Concept2’s support of the athletes and their equipment.
The next Summer Olympics will be in Tokyo in 2020, and Beeman looks forward to being a rowing-equipment technician for the sixth time.
“I’m also super excited to go to some of the other international regattas,” Beeman said. “One is in Serbia this year, and Switzerland. The World Rowing Championships will be in Florida.”