Lightweight rower Cooper Tuckerman ’22 competes in U.S. Olympic Trials

Tuckerman said he was motivated in part by the cutting and reinstatement of the varsity lightweight rowing team.

by Andrew Doerr | 3/30/21 2:00am

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Source: Courtesy of Cooper Tuckerman

Last month, lightweight rower Cooper Tuckerman ’22 competed in the U.S.Olympic Team trials in Sarasota, Florida. Despite not making the team for the upcoming Olympics in Tokyo, Tuckerman enjoyed being able to race again after almost a year — a tumultuous one that saw the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the termination of the Dartmouth men’s lightweight rowing team and the subsequent reinstatement of that team. 

According to Tuckerman, the turmoil surrounding his collegiate rowing career, and in particular the College’s decision to cut the lightweight rowing team, became a primary motivation for his attempt to compete in the Olympics. 

“I might as well throw my hat in the ring and see where it goes,” he recalled thinking. 

After Tuckerman decided that he wanted to try to compete in the Olympics, Dartmouth lightweight rowing coach Dan Roock helped connect Tuckerman with Vesper Boat Club, a club in Philadelphia that trains rowers for Olympic trials. Tuckerman’s training for the Olympic trials started in August of 2020.

Tuckerman said that he feels his time with the Vesper Boat Club and at the Olympic trials will be invaluable to his future success as a collegiate athlete and potential Olympian, adding that he hopes to share what he learned with Dartmouth’s lightweight rowing team.

“I think you can just get that taste for training at that high level,” Tuckerman said. “And you get to see what it really takes to compete with the best. It’s important to be able to bring that taste back to the team and get other guys hungry and take lessons that you've learned in training.”

Roock says he believes that the knowledge Tuckerman gained from his experience at the Olympic trials will help the entire men’s lightweight rowing team at Dartmouth, especially given the obstacles the team has had to face throughout the last year.

“I think it'll be a great confidence boost to both Cooper and the team,” Roock said.

Roock added that he believes having athletes who compete at a higher level will help persuade future collegiate rowers to choose Dartmouth.

“It sort of just shows what can happen with Dartmouth athletes who come to Dartmouth with talent, but not necessarily Olympic talent,” Roock said. “They can get to the top of the sport, and we have the facilities and the situation to prepare them.”

Roock emphasized that along with his rowing ability, Tuckerman’s attitude and effort contribute to his success. 

“He's a tough guy,” Roock said. “He comes at this with a real, strong effort, and I think the big thing is that he enjoys it. Rowing is a sport that you get good at because you really like it. He has all the characteristics of a real top level athlete — hard work and concentration and the commitment.”

Tuckerman’s teammate, lightweight rower Gabe Kotsonis ’22, also noted Tuckerman’s work ethic and commitment to the team. Kotsonis recalled that on one training trip the team took, Tuckerman would train far more than was expected of him, logging several extra hours a day.

“We would do like two hours of training in the mornings, and then [Tuckerman] could do four hours of exercise per day, and then do some extra stuff as well,” Kotsonis said.

As Tuckerman continues to compete for Dartmouth’s lightweight rowing team, his Olympic prospects remain intact. The International Olympic Committee announced in December that lightweight rowing will be held at the Olympics in Paris in 2024, despite recent efforts by the World Rowing Federation to replace the event with coastal rowing. 

“Now that we know that [there are] going to be lightweights in Paris, that's definitely something that's at the back of my head,” Tuckerman said. “And we'll just sort of see how the next couple years of training go at Dartmouth and see once I've finished out my collegiate career.”