Sports May Change, Competitive Fires Don’t

By Julia Preszler – Posted on October 20, 2017

A former Olympic cross country skier and her partner look to continue their pattern of improvement in the Senior Women’s Masters Doubles Saturday morning, looking to climb ever further up the standings.

This will be Leslie Krichko and Laurie Devitt’s fourth year rowing in the Head of the Charles Regatta. The pair finished seventh in their first HOCR race and have improved steadily up to fourth a year ago.

“We’re ready. We’ve trained hard and we’re ready,” Devitt said.

Krichko is hardly stranger to high level athletic competition. She was a member of the U.S. cross-country ski teams in the 1980 Lake Placid and 1988 Calgary Olympics, completing in Calgary while in the early stages of pregnancy with her first child. After her son was born, Krichko became a full-time mom. While she has always been active, Krichko said she did not race competitively again until she joined the Maritime Rowing Club in Norwalk, Connecticut four years ago.

“I’ve had such a blast getting back to having a coach, having the training program, and having racing,” she said.

It was at the Maritime Rowing Club that Krichko, 58, met Devitt, 61, who has been rowing for 17 years., Unlike Krichko, Devitt did not play any sports growing up. Her first encounter with athleticism was at the tennis club in Norwalk, which she joined in order to meet people after moving there.

She began rowing shortly after her children did, and said her time at the tennis club prepared her by giving her athletic confidence.

The two say they are well matched and have both continued to improve each year.

“By the second year, when we’d get in the boat for the first time, it just felt like home,” Krichko said.

The pair said they train about six days each week. In addition to rowing, Krichko said she trains by practicing deep-water running in a pool.

“Leslie has taught all the rowers how to do this water running and so we all do that also,” Devitt said.

The HOCR will be the team’s fifth race this fall. They said they typically row outside until Thanksgiving and get back onto the water in late February or early March.

During a few warm Christmas Eves, Krichko said the members of their club have rowed while singing Christmas carols.

Rowing has become a family affair for both women. Krichko’s and Devitt’s husbands are also competing this weekend. Devitt’s children rowed while they were in college, and Krichko’s daughter is  a current All American rower at the University of Michigan.

“My kids have been supportive of me doing it,” Devitt said.

The pair have found a friendly community within rowing. As they walked around the finish area on Friday, they ran into and chatted with many people they know.

“I really felt like I had never met anybody like my ski crowd and when I went down to that boathouse that very first day, there were all these ladies who were so fit and so into it and I felt like I had met my people,” Krichko said.

Krichko said rowing and the rowing community helped to keep her strong during her brush with breast cancer in 2014.

The pair is incredibly passionate about rowing and don’t plan on stopping anytime soon.

“I sometimes laugh in the middle of a race because I cannot believe that there’s still that tiger in there,” Krichko said. “She’s got it too,” she added, pointing to Devitt.

Editor’s Note: Krichko and Devitt finished fourth in Saturday’s Women’s Senior Master’s Double, with a time of 20:18.