ELMIRA, NY – Watkins Glen native Olivia Coffey is going for gold this year in Tokyo representing the United States and the Southern Tier at the Olympic games.
Tara Lynch of our sister station in Elmira spoke with Coffey about some new changes to Olympic rowing, making it fair for men and women on the water.
From Burdett to Tokyo, Olivia Coffey has trained for this moment for the past 10 years.
After leaving the area for school she returned in 2020 amid a global pandemic to train in her home community.
“I was training in Watkins Glen I was lifting with a local teacher. I was rowing on the inlet. I was basically training on my own,” says Coffey.
Her dad, a former silver medalist in the Montreal games in men’s pair, so competition runs deep in her family.
“But sometimes I go to be like competing and stuff I’d be like ‘yea Dad look what I did…’ and he would say well when you’ve won an Olympic silver medal and you can talk to me. So I want to be like look I got a gold,” says Cofey.
Not only will she be representing the Southern Tier on the international stage, she will also represent female athletes during a time when women are fighting for equity in sports.
“When you step back and you look at the national media coverage, you realize how behind women’s athletics are. That’s something I struggled with playing ice hockey. I was kind of always like well why can’t I check, which is not allowed in women’s hockey, but men are allowed to check. And that’s something that always really bugged me,” says Cofey.
While some contact sports have different rules for men and women, the water provides an equal laying field, 2000 meters as fast as you can go, this year women’s rowing will include more races and athletes, something Coffey wished for in 2016 as an alternate for the Rio Games.
“2021 will be the first OIympics that men and women will have equal opportunity in rowing. What they have done is they changed some of the events around so men and women can have equal numbers. That’s really encouraging to see. As an alternate in 2016, if they had a high equal opportunity for women, I maybe could’ve gone,” says Coffey.
Her Southern Tier roots still hold strong as she prepares for the biggest race of her career.
“If I do well there, then the community gets a piece of that too. I hope they enjoy it as much as I do,” says Coffey.
US Women’s Eight is going for their fourth straight Olympic Gold.