Olympians Made Here

Olympians Made Here

Duvall Hecht, 1952, 1956

Bob Ernst, 1976, 1980, 1984, 1988

Brad Lewis, 1980, 1984

Bruce Ibbeston, 1980, 1984

Bruce Ibbetson, Class of 1975, was a walk-on freshman at UCI in the Fall, 1971, achieving a BS in Biology.
He rowed the 2 seat in the Freshman 8 under coach Stu Gibson, then the 2 seat in the JV 8 as a sophomore, under head coach Bob Ernst.
In his junior year, after recovering from a dislocated knee, Bruce stroked the Varsity 8 beating Cal Berkeley and narrowly losing to Washington in the Western Sprint Championships. That boat received the Rusty Callow, National Award. In his senior year, Bob Ernst had moved to Washington as the new Freshman coach, and the UCI Varsity 8 slipped to 4th in Western Sprints.
After graduating, Bruce moved to Seattle, WA to train under Bob Ernst. After just missing the 1976 Olympic Team, Bruce was encouraged to continue training, and stroked the US 8 at the 1977 World Rowing Championships in Amsterdam. Rowing most summers out of the Penn boathouse, under coach Ted Nash, the way forward was filled with miles of small boat training, mostly in the pair w/o cox. Multiple National Championships followed in pairs, fours, and eights, along with racing in the US Eight or pair at the World Rowing Championships in 77, 78, & 79. Coach Harry Parker chose Bruce to stroke the 1980 Olympic Eight, which lost only to East Germany in pre-Olympic racing in Europe, but

was denied the opportunity to race at the Moscow Olympic Games in 1980 due to the Carter Administration Boycott of the 1980 Games. Back at school, Bruce earned his combined, MBA & MPA from UCI in 1982, and then raced in the US Eight in the 1983 World Championships. His racing career ended with a silver medal, stroking the US Eight at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. The racing results were mostly good, but the journey and lifelong friendships remain irreplaceable.

Greg Springer, 1984, 1988, 1992

Greg Springer owns and runs a cattle ranch in a remote town in south Texas, several hours away from the nearest body of water. “What does being an Olympian mean to me? Nothing; I don’t talk about it, most people are very disappointed when they hear me talk about the Olympics.” Why? Springer is saddened with what he calls the slow prostitution of the Olympic movement. He recalls rowing and coaching legend Ted Nash recounting the splendor of the Olympics as “being the most beautiful athletic and social event currently known to man, where people from all over the world come together and compete under equal conditions and all are respected and all are welcome” Springer compares that to what he says in the commercialized, drug-tainted event the Olympics has become in the last 30 years or so is a dismay. 

Still despite the corruption and politics that he feels have marred the Olympics as an institution, Springer looks back on his days as an elite athlete with a mixture of longing and contentment. He sees his silver medal as a result of his crew showing up and doing their job. “Going into the [Olympic] final we knew the British had beaten us once, and we were confident we could beat everyone else,” he recalls. “We rowed right at the level of our crew, it’s not necessarily laudable, and it’s not negative, it just is” He adds: “had we won gold, I would of been ecstatic because we would have exceeded our performance, if we’d gotten a bronze I would have been extremely disappointed. As it was, we showed up and did our job.”

This sort of stoic pragmatism is the way Springer looks at his entire athletic career. “I didn’t compete against other people or other countries I competed against myself,” he says. “It was an avenue that allowed me to push my own boundaries. Sometimes the gauge of my performance was the result of my competition. 

Nevertheless, he says, he never measured himself as an athlete by his wins and losses. “There were times when I was blown away on the water where I was ecstatic with my performance, and times where I won and was very disappointed with my race. It’s not the competition and it’s not the politics, being in a situation where the sum focus of your attention is on yourself as an athlete,” says Springer, “for me that is what it’s all about.”

Springer sees being an Olympican as something almost anyone has the potential to be able to do. “The one thing anyone who is world class has is the ability to focus, not necessarily extraordinary talent,” he says. “It’s not that some people can and most can’t. It’s that some will and most won’t”

Curtis Flemming, 1984

Kathy Thaxton, 1984