Thursday, February 21, 2008
Yuriy was the first person to ever teach me how to hold an oar handle, when I was 15, and I knew him for eleven years after that.
He taught me about form and power, discipline and endurance. He was the best motivator I ever encountered, and an incredible personality. A former Soviet women's rowing coach from the Ukraine, he knew how to guide people gradually yet constantly, pushing them past their thresholds and making them realize their strength, while at the same time making them laugh. He helped me carry my boat to the dock every day (even though I should have done it myself), and when he patted my back and said "good girl," I knew he approved of my work. And I wanted his approval-- if I knew he was waiting for me at a practice, very few excuses could cause me to skip it.
He was kind, and aware, and an entertainer. A constant presence at the boathouse, he touched the lives of so many, my entire family included. I can't imagine what it will be like without his greetings at the gate ("Good moooorning! You sleepy girl?"), his tools and his tinkering, his buzz words ("jump!" "special squats" "rest time!" "ups! ups!"), his coach boat zipping around and causing waves for everybody, or his classical music playing while we suffer on the ergs. One of the last times I saw him, he asked if he could accompany us to Argentina to work as our "personal security." I wish he had! When I row I'll miss looking at his handwritten workout plan taped to the stern, but most of all, I'll miss things like his facial expressions, his voice, and the possibility of in impromptu waltz with him on the dock.
He lived so well, though, and I can only hope to be as strong and committed as he was at his age. He will continue to inspire us, and he will be missed.