A newsmaker you should know: Many 'Burghers will be rooting for Romanian Olympic rower
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When the summer Olympics begin at the end of July in London, there will be some local rooting interest for the Romanian four-man rowing team.
Romanian national Florin Curuea, the head coach for both the Pittsburgh Rowing Club and the Pine-Richland High School crew team, will be rowing for his country.
He qualified for the Olympic team in May and has been training with his teammates since the tryouts in March. He also has been living in Romania since that time as a member of the M4, or men's straight-4 team.
Mr. Curuea started thinking about trying for the Olympic team in late fall of last year.
"We had a close shot in 2004, but didn't qualify," he said in a telephone interview from Romania.
Mr. Curuea had moved to the United States in 2006 to coach here and, at that time, more or less put his own rowing aspirations on hold.
"I felt like it was time to give back to others and start coaching," he said.
But last December, he decided to once again pursue his dream of going to the Olympics.
"I've been rowing since I was 14 and in eighth grade. I think it was always in my mind since then," he said.
Mr. Curuea's mother had a friend whose son went to rowing, so when she was looking for something for him to do, she sent him along. Despite being 6 feet, 2 inches tall, Mr. Curuea said he isn't very tall and rowing was a perfect fit.
"It was a sport that really met my needs. I'm a bit short and I liked to be on the water, I like to compete, so it worked," he said.
He rowed from 1996 to 2006, competing all through college. He came to the U.S. when he was 24 years old.
"I had never been to the U.S. before, but I was excited to try coaching," he said.
For the past six years Mr. Curuea has coached for the Pittsburgh and high school teams, and then in December he started to train to row competitively once again.
"I made little goals. I thought that I would start training and if I lost a certain amount of weight, then I would keep training," he said.
Goal after "little goal," Mr. Curuea met his mark and in March, he went to Romania to train with other Olympic hopefuls. In May, he made the team.
"At 30, I am the old man on the team. There are two 19-year-olds and a 21-year-old," he said.
He also is the shortest member of the team.
Since making the team, Mr. Curuea said they train four to five hours a day and compete in other competitions.
There was no doubt in the mind of fellow coach and friend Mark Roberts that Mr. Curuea would make the Romanian team.
"Florin's personality is perfect for this kind of endeavor," Mr. Roberts said. "His goal setting, his motivation is above and beyond what it takes for this."
Mr. Roberts described Mr. Curuea's habit of writing notes to himself.
"He wrote it all down -- his daily workouts were all drawn out along with his overall goals," he said.
Mr. Curuea's wife, whom he met here in Pittsburgh, is unable to attend the Olympics because of her work schedule and costs, so she -- along with the rowers from both of his teams -- will be cheering from afar.
"There are a lot of people who have been supporting him.
"It is a lot of work to get to the Olympics and it is work that Florin did, but we've been watching him and rooting for him," Mr. Roberts said. "We will be waiting to see him compete."
It is an honor that Mr. Curuea has been waiting for a long time.
"It's a great feeling to know that I can still do the sport after being out of it for six years. It involves a lot of work, but I made it," he said.
First Published June 28, 2012 5:46 am