Exclusive interview with Watkins Glen native and U.S. Olympian Olivia Coffey

Local News

(WETM) – Many athletes have dreamed about making it to the biggest stage in their sport, but not many can say they have realized their dream and are vying for an Olympic Medal.

Meet Watkins Glen native Olivia Coffey, who has been training for this moment for more than a decade. She played many sports growing up, including basketball and hockey. As she grew up along the Finger Lakes, something attracted her to the water and when she went to high school she joined the rowing team.

“The U.S. Rowing team is an incredibly successful program. They’ve won the past three Olympics in the women’s eight and that’s the boat that I’ve been in. I’ve been training to try to make this team for 10 years,” Coffey said.

The COVID-19 pandemic provided an extra challenge for Coffey. Not only was the Olympic Race pushed back one year, but Coffey also had to recover from contracting Coronavirus. She left the region at 14 to attend boarding school in the Greater Boston area and then attended Harvard before rowing in Cambridge, U.K. Amid the pandemic, she returned to Upstate New York to recover from the virus and to begin training. For the 2016 Rio Games, she was an alternate, so her hunger to race has never been greater.

“I was a spare in 2016 and finally made the team is very rewarding. I’m so excited to race. I’m so excited to represent my country and obviously our Southern Tier area,” Coffey continued. “I’m just really looking forward to it. It’s been a huge privilege. I just couldn’t be more excited to race, I’ve been training for two years without a race ready to go.”

The Coffey family is no stranger to the biggest stage in sports. Her dad, Calvin, was a silver medalist in the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games.

“I’m just waiting to one-up my dad finally,” she said with a laugh. “I wouldn’t have known he was an Olympian unless every now and then he would pull out his medal from his sock drawer. It’s not something he really talked about too much.”

She says her Upstate New York roots prepared her for this moment to represent her country.

“Since leaving for school and coming back, the area has everything you need to be successful in sports,” Coffey added.

While the Olympic Games are more than 6,000 miles away from New York State, she believes the community will be with her, as they have been every step of the way.

“Thank you for helping me become the athlete that I am,” Coffey concluded. “If I do well there, the community gets a piece of that too and I hope that they enjoy it as much as I do.”

The XXXII Olympiad will be broadcast on WETM and the NBC Universal family of networks starting July 23. Coffey will take the water for the first time on July 25 in the Women’s Eight heats.

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