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December 7: A 5′1″ Champion

Lawrence Bush
December 7, 2016

Allen Rosenberg, who coached the United States Olympic rowing team that won the gold medal in Tokyo in 1964, as well as teams that won the Lucerne world championship in 1974 and the Pan American Games in 1975, died at 82 on this date in 2013. Rosenberg was an attorney and a pharmacist who used his intellectual acuity to analyze and transform rowing techniques: from “a collective burst of power from the major parts of the body” of each rower, writes Bruce Weber in the New York Times, to fir[ing of] “muscle groups in rotation rather than all at once. The technique became known as the Rosenberg style.“ One of his 1974 champions described it as follows: “He took what was often a frenetic and power-washing way -- putting the oar in the water and whaling away at it -- to something more relaxed. His constant comments were about lightness of hands and relaxing and balancing in the recovery part of the stroke. Concentrate on a long pull in the water, quiet and even. The less water you disturb, the faster the boat goes.” Rosenberg was only 5’1” tall and weighed 100 pounds. A Philadelphia native who learned his sport on the Schuykill River, Rosenberg won twelve international and national gold and silver medals as a rower, and teams he coached won more than twenty-four gold and silver medals in the Olympics and world championships.

“Some coaches say that if you want to move [a boulder], you put everything you’ve got into a single great heave . . . I contend that it is better to use muscle groups in sequence -- legs, shoulders, backs, arms -- because the problem is not merely to budge the boulder but to keep it rolling as smoothly as possible. No worthwhile races are won by crews who work the entire distance.’ ”

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.