Tony Geara wants to row in the Olympics.
Problem is, he's from Lebanon, is studying for a Ph.D. in Cincinnati, Ohio, works in Kuwait and visits family in Australia. It makes consistent training difficult. But thanks to the welcoming arms of the global rowing community, Geara is nearing his goal.
The most recent stop for the 30-year-old single sculler is the 2011 USRowing Masters National Championships in Oklahoma City, where Geara has already won a gold medal in the mixed A double sculls and the men's A single sculls for the Cincinnati Rowing Club.
His performance is especially remarkable once Geara explains the traveling he has had to do over the last few years and the number of people he has had to rely on.
“What I've noticed is that the rowing community is extremely welcoming in every place I've been,” he said.
Geara started rowing in 2001 as an undergrad at the University of Cincinnati. When he finished school, Geara began coaching at the local Clermont Rowing Club, while continuing to row and train competitively.
After a few years, he returned to racing. That's when he met Bill Engeman, a Cincinnati attorney, rower and coach who has spent a lifetime committed to developing the sport and helping others.
Engeman, and Bruce Smith of Boston-based Community Rowing Inc., helped arrange for a group of Iraqi rowers to come to the United States to train leading up to the 2010 Asian Games.
Despite not knowing Engeman, Geara jumped on the opportunity to help.
“I ended up on his front porch for about a couple hours the first time I met him, and I just couldn't get enough. I could speak Arabic and I rowed, so I fit right in,” he said.