But when four become five, people get antsy.
How antsy? Genevra Stone had about 20 minutes to contemplate the end of her Olympic rowing career Wednesday at Sea Forest Waterway before she started talking about the doctor stuff.
“I go back to residency August. . . . What is it, the ninth, is my official start date?” Stone said.
Stone, a three-time Olympian and 2016 silver medalist in the women’s singles sculls, closed one chapter of life Wednesday, when she and partner Kristi Wagner finished fifth of six in women’s double sculls after rallying Sunday to qualify for the final. They crossed the finish line with a time of 6 minutes 52.98 seconds, behind Romania, which won gold with an Olympic-best time of 6:41.03.
Up next, Stone returns to her career as an emergency room doctor. She has two years left in her residency and goes back to the profession knowing she squeezed every last year out of her Olympic career.
Stone and Wagner fought from behind in races in Tokyo and were not expected to medal. On a hot and windy Wednesday morning, they raced for themselves and for the simple thrill of seeing how fast they could make their boat go.
“You know, we raced hard,” Stone said. “It’s the Olympic final, and we worked hard in the semi to put ourselves there, and our goal was to go out and have a great race in the hopes that that would put us on the podium.”
Stone insists she is done this time. A graduate of Tufts University medical school, she nearly retired once before, after winning her silver medal in 2016. She then embarked on a career as an emergency room doctor, beginning her residency at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, near her hometown.
But years of ingrained predawn training sessions leave an imprint, and Stone was still working out — hard. She was recording personal record times and getting faster in her early 30s despite the added toll of medical school. Even then, she seriously considered returning for Tokyo only after she gave a talk to a group of elementary school kids.
“They said: ‘You still love it, and you’re getting faster. Why stop?’ And you know, it kind of set off that question in my head,” Stone said. “I was happy with residency; it wasn’t a problem with that. I was pretty sure I was going to retire. And [fellow U.S. rower] Mary Jones told me, ‘Just tell someone you’re going to go for Tokyo and see what your internal reaction is.’ I called up one of my best friends from college and said, ‘I’m going for Tokyo,’ and I knew, the moment I said that, I was doing it.”
Stone competed in single sculls in the 2012 and 2016 Games, rowing alone with an oar in each hand as opposed to sweep, the sport’s other discipline, in which a single oar is held with both hands. She lost her place to Kara Kohler by 3.22 seconds at the single sculls U.S. trials in February but had another shot in April at the double sculls trials.
At 36, Stone had pushed her medical residency aside for two years, then three, with the understanding and support of her family and her colleagues in her program and her family. Her mother, Lisa, rowed for Team USA at the 1976 Montreal Olympics, coming in seventh in the women’s coxed quadruple sculls. Her father, Gregg, made the team in 1980, only to miss the Moscow Games because of the U.S. boycott.
Stone didn’t want to miss her last chance.
“Before Gevvie and I even started rowing together, we had a conversation where she was like, ‘I don’t want to go to doubles trials and just race. I want to go to doubles trials and win and go to the Olympics and perform,’ ” Wagner said. “I was like, ‘Yes, I want that, too!’ You either rise to the occasion or you don’t, and I knew if I didn’t rise to the occasion, she wouldn’t be here with me either.”
Part of what Wagner enjoyed about competing with her new partner was watching Stone embrace the veteran role in their shared community. Wagner is eight years Stone’s junior, but both are Massachusetts natives and part of a Boston-area cohort of rowers.
“Gevvie has created this culture — I mean, I think — with women’s sculling. I know there are other players, but I think she’s really the leader of the pack. . . . It’s like Shalane Flanagan and running. She brings people with her,” Wagner said, referring to the first American woman to win the New York City Marathon in 40 years in 2017. “She doesn’t just build them up; she brings them with her.”
With her Olympic career finished, Stone plans to continue her mentor-type role in the Boston rowing community while she finally returns to her medical career. She admits it’s going to be a challenge jumping back into the emergency room after three years away as hospitals across the United States continue to deal with the pandemic.
“But [something] being hard has never let me back down from anything in the past,” Stone said. “As Kristi says, you rise to the challenge.”