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  • Submitted by: lena campos
  • 05 / 30 / 2012

Robin Prendes began rowing with a neighbor on a lake near his house in west Miami-Dade County. He wasn’t sure he would like the sport, but his father encouraged him, recalling their former life in Varadero, Cuba, where the Cuban crew team trained and held regattas.

“I got hooked,” Prendes said.

Two months from now, he’s going to the London Olympics.

Prendes, a Coral Park High and Princeton University graduate, made the U.S. Olympic team when he stroked his teammates in the lightweight four boat to first place at the Last Chance Olympic Qualifying Regatta in Lucerne, Switzerland.

The Americans, who never had raced together in a regatta, pulled ahead in the final 500 meters to beat the Netherlands by one tenth of a second in a photo finish in the 2,000-meter race.

“I yelled pretty loudly,” he said. “It took me a while to realize I wasn’t dreaming.”

He called his parents, Rodolfo and Vicky, who gave up engineering careers in Cuba to start over in Miami. Rodolfo runs a motorcycle/scooter business and Vicky is a patent assistant at a law firm.

“My mom started screaming at work and everybody looked at her,” Prendes said.

Prendes, 23, was 6 when he and his parents moved from Cuba to Miami. He had an older brother who died of leukemia at age 12.

“My parents were trying to get out of the country to try to find a cure for him, and they weren’t allowed to leave, and that gave them very negative feelings toward the Cuban government,” he said.

Prendes honed his skills at the American Barge Club, Miami Rowing Club and Miami Beach Rowing Club, under coach Francisco Viacava. He stroked Princeton’s lightweight eight to two national championships, a Henley Royal Regatta title, and he won Princeton’s prestigious William Winston Roper trophy as a senior economics/finance major last year.

Prendes and his teammates, who must maintain an average weight of 154 pounds, had never competed in an international event or raced against more than one boat as a team before last week’s event.

“We are a relatively young crew,” said Prendes, who trains with the national team in Oklahoma City. He was among the last rowers picked for the last-chance regatta.


Source: Nuevo Herald

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