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January 22, 2010

John Frohnmayer ’72: Champion Rower

While most know the political side of Oregon Law 1972 graduate John Frohnmayer, not all know that the retired attorney and former chair of the National Endowment for the Arts has been a competitive rower for 25 years.

During the fall, Frohnmayer traveled to Boston where he competed in the prestigious Head of the Charles Regatta. His team of nine individuals (eight rowers and a coxswain) from the Corvallis Rowing Club won their class at the two-day competition that welcomed more than 1800 competitors from around the globe and is touted as the world’s largest regatta.

A sport he always admired, Frohnmayer says he initially was drawn to the beauty of rowing — the fluidity and serenity of being on the river as the sun rises and the world is coming to life.

“It is the most perfect blend of aesthetics and exercise I know,” he added.

Frohnmayer said he has “probably 50 medals” to his name from competing in both single and team competitions. In 2009 alone, Frohnmayer took top honors with his mixed four team (two men, two women, and a coxswain) at the U.S. Rowing National Championships in Camden, New Jersey, and garnered four gold medals and two silvers at the Northwest Regional Championships in Vancouver, Washington, competing in both singles and team events.

When asked whether he prefers competing in individual or group competitions, Frohnmayer says both are challenging and fun. Competing in a pairs race, however, proves to be the most difficult.

“When rowing as a pair, each person is in charge of only one oar, which is different from rowing as a single or larger group,” he noted. “It takes a lot of skill and coordination between the two rowers.”

While mastering the skill and appropriate form of rowing is no easy task, Frohnmayer said staying in shape is his most difficult challenge — particularly during the rainy winter months.

“Keeping in shape is the toughest part for me,” he said. “The Willamette [River] gets too high and dangerous during the rainy months to train outdoors.”

Frohnmayer works out indoors during those wet months by “erging,” or using an ergometer, also known as a rowing machine.

“It’s a torture device, similar to the rack,” he joked.

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