Italian-born rower rises past injury to compete for U.S. in world championships

This post was written by Hatchet reporter Josh Solomon.

Rising sophomore Jordan Tewksbury-Volpe knew he was injured going into the qualifying races at the World Rowing Under 23 Championships. He knew he wouldn’t be at his best. The rib he fractured in May had made it hurt to breathe.

Sophomore Jordan Tewksbury-Volpe will compete in the Under 23 Rowing World Championships this week in Austria. Photo courtesy of Athletics Communication

After failing to make the cut as a single rower, the Italian-born sophomore pushed on, finding a last-minute partner, Will Robins from Stanford. The duo qualified by 0.1-second  to compete for the United States in the lightweight pair at the world championships this week in Austria.

It was “pretty crazy. We were behind for the entire race and then for the last 50 meters we were able to sprint through them,” said Tewksbury-Volpe, who has dual citizenship between the U.S. and Italy. “We just went for it. The last 250 meters we just went all out.”

Going all out is certainly a motto that rowers live by, but it’s not necessarily something Tewksbury-Volpe believed he would be able to do at the qualifiers. He fractured a rib at a race in May, a few weeks before the Intercollegiate Rowing Association championships, which would’ve been the final race of the season.

“I raced, and then after the race I couldn’t breathe without it hurting. I couldn’t move around without it hurting a lot,” he said.

Tewksbury-Volpe waited a couple days, but soon he and GW head coach Mark Davis found out the severity of the injury – he could not even sit in the erg, the machine rowers use to train.

“I went back to biking again. I don’t know, it was frustrating. Obviously, missing the two most important races of the year after working so hard wasn’t the best. Then I just thought of it that I can’t really do anything about it now so just keep on training on the bike and be as ready and in good enough shape for next year, without knowing that I would be here, now,” he said.

As his condition improved though, he began to realize he might still have a chance at entering the camp to try out for the national team. Tewksbury-Volpe’s doctor told him he could enter the camp, but would not be in his best rowing shape.

He competed anyways and found a way to qualify. Davis attributed the accomplishment to the rising sophomore’s maturity, which had also driven Tewksbury-Volpe to race with the team’s more advanced the Varsity 8 squad last spring.

“A freshman in the Varsity 8 is very hard at our level. And it was easy because he had that maturity, because he had rowed internationally. He wasn’t overwhelmed by being in the varsity boat. It wasn’t too big of a situation for him to go and race against the top teams in the country,” Davis said.

The maturity stems from the level of experience he has in the sport as one of just two international student-athletes on the team – the other being Canadian rising senior Trofym Anderson, who will also be competing in the world championships in Austria this summer for his native Canada.

Tewksbury-Volpe picked up the sport in 2006, following in the footsteps of his older brother, Gianthomas, who had already found some success by captaining the Princeton lightweight team and competing in the world championships for Italy. The younger Tewksbury-Volpe said he feels no added pressure from the great expectations set by his brother, but instead goes to him first whenever he needs rowing advice.


It’s this level of experience that Tewksbury-Volpe said his experience rowing in junior championship teams in Italy  helped guide him through his comeback from broken rib to the Under 23 World Championships.

Originally, he was just happy to get an invite to trials – “it was a good way to get my name out there,” he said.

But soon things changed.

He partnered up with Robbins in the lightweight pair to see if the two could qualify together. With Tewksbury-Volpe in the stroke seat and Robbins in the bow seat, they weren’t sure if they could make it. But the pair fought hard through the last quarter-mile and edged out the right to compete in the world championships.

They couldn’t believe it, and neither could head coach Davis. He too thought Tewksbury-Volpe’s offseason would be devoted to rehab, but saw him train for four straight weeks to get back to a competitive level. Regardless, Davis never expected an even healthy Tewksbury-Volpe to reach these heights, and so quickly too when he recruited him.

“To tell you the truth, no. Most people don’t make the team unless you’re a really outstanding rower and you were on the Junior National team and there are only a select few that can make it out there after their freshman year,” Davis said.

Now, Tewksbury-Volpe said training at Princeton this summer has helped him feel 100 percent. “It’s been over a month and a half of two-a-days, so feeling tired but feeling good,” he said.

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