MC grad eyes 2016 Olympics

By on June 4, 2014
Manheim Central grad Brigitte dePerrot is currently training in Cork, Ireland for the Irish National Trials later this year.

Manheim Central grad Brigitte dePerrot is currently training in Cork, Ireland for the Irish National Trials later this year.

Brigitte dePerrot had heard all the suggestions.

She had always been told, ‘You should try rowing. You’re tall, you have a rower’s build.’

dePerrot’s interests, though, were track and field, swimming and volleyball at Manheim Central High School, from where she graduated in 2008. She continued to compete in track at the University of Colorado-Boulder.

Finally, dePerrot gave rowing a shot.

Suffice to say, the former MC star is glad she did.

Proving herself to be a natural in the sport, dePerrot’s talents have taken her to Cork, Ireland, where she is currently training with the Irish National Rowing Team. If all goes according to plan, she hopes to earn a berth in the 2016 Summer Olympics, to be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Her great-grandfather, a national rowing champion in Switzerland at one time, certainly would have loved for her to follow in his footsteps there. That connection gives dePerrot Swiss citizenship, besides her roots to the U.S. and Ireland, where her mother, Mary O’Dea, is 100 percent native.

“I could have gone to Switzerland also,” dePerrot chuckled, “but I don’t speak German. Ireland just seems a little more my pace.”

Since graduating from college in 2012 with a degree in molecular biology &tstr; and a minor in environmental studies &tstr; dePerrot, 23, has in fact been on a breakneck pace in rowing.

“I was always good at sports. I went to Districts in a lot of them,” said dePerrot, “but I guess I never, ever thought I’d have the opportunity to go to the Olympics. I guess I wasn’t doing the right sport.”

Certainly, dePerrot had a lot of success in track and field, qualifying for Districts in the javelin during her days at Manheim Central and then continuing in that sport at the University of Colorado-Boulder. While there, dePerrot caught the eye of a Buffaloes’ rowing coach and she put herself to the test on an erg &tstr; a rowing machine.

“I was pretty fast at (the erg),” dePerrot said, “but at the time, I was into doing other sports. But then when I graduated and came back to Pennsylvania, I decided to kinda give it a shot because I had some free time … I didn’t really take it seriously until after I was done with college.”

Her journey led her to the Bachelors Barge Club on Philadelphia’s Boathouse Row. The club is owned by Drexel University, where she had been planning to attend graduate school this year.

Three times a week, dePerrot began taking lessons and training with the team. Eventually, she did 2K and 6K time trials and learned that her times were competitive with the U.S. National team’s standards. Their timetable for submitting scores, however, didn’t work in dePerrot’s favor. So she turned her focus to the Irish team.

“They asked me to come over and try out for the team,” dePerrot recalled. “So I went and trialed and they asked me if I’d sign with the team.”

In mid-February, she did exactly that.

Since then, except for a brief return to Manheim (where her father Richard still resides) in early March to handle some personal business, she has been a fixture at the Irish National Training Center.

“Teams like the United States have such big pools of girls to pull from that they don’t really need to develop anyone,” dePerrot said. “They just kinda pick numbers because so many girls have fast scores. Ireland is a lot smaller, so they have more development potential. So it worked out as an opportunity . They needed a girl, I was fast and they can develop me.”

The workouts, dePerrot admits, have been “really intense.” Four days a week, the training consists of an 18,000-meter session on the water, followed by Olympic-style lifting, then a 16,000-meter drill back on the water, before ending the day with a 12,000-meter technical. The other three days involve the same routine, minus the 12,000-meter technical.

“I really do enjoy it,” dePerrot said. “I’ve always enjoyed training. It’s my first real endurance sport, so that was a change for me. But I’ve adapted to it pretty well. Everyone there is just at such a high level and they’re so dedicated. One of the girls there is actually a world-record holder for a 2K sprint. They’ve got a really talented team and when you’re all training together, it’s so much more motivating.”

There’s no denying the talent of dePerrot’s rowing partner Sanita Puspure, who competed at the London Olympics in 2012. Although she started late in the training cycle, dePerrot is guaranteed a spot with Puspure in the Irish National Trials later this year. With a good showing there, the 2015 World Championships would be next. There, dePerrot and Puspure have to earn a top-nine finish in order to advance to the 2016 Olympics.

“They’ve got the most competitive, fastest team they’ve had in over 50 years,” dePerrot said of the Irish National Team. “So it’s a definite shot. You never know, but the opportunity is there.”

Perhaps she will bring home some hardware to add to a collection which already includes a bunch of medals that her great-grandfather Willy dePerrot won from an illustrious rowing career. A one-time national champion in Switzerland, dePerrot quit the sport to bring the Suchard brand to the United States in a partnership in the Wilbur-Suchard Chocolate Co.

“He kinda ended his career short, but I think he was rowing for the better part of a decade,” dePerrot said.

Time will tell where dePerrot’s rowing career takes her. At the moment she’s working hard on her technique and trying to capitalize on her opportunity &tstr; one she never dreamed of while competing in track and field just a couple of years ago.

“I didn’t believe it when they said my scores,” dePerrot said. “It’s kinda surreal to be just thrown into that environment.”

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