Bears in Beijing
Aug. 25, 2008
Along with several other alums, Nikola Stojic `93 and Portia Johnson McGee '01 represented their countries and Brown University last week in the rowing competition at the Beijing Olympics. Stojic rowed in the men's straight pair for his native Serbia, while McGee competed in the same event on the women's side for the United States. Although both missed the podium, each of them won the petite final, good for a seventh place finish.
After cruising to an easy second place finish in their heat, Stojic and countryman Jagar Gorin got off to a fast start in the semifinals and were second through 1500 meters. However, they were unable to sustain the pace and were outsprinted by the United States and Germany in the last 500, ultimately finishing fourth by 1.5 seconds. While the loss took them out of medal contention, it did give them a prized middle lane for their final. After falling in the semis the pair changed their tactics, starting relatively slowly and then pulling very consistent splits throughout the race. The strategy worked to perfection as Stojic and Gorin gradually pulled away from the field to win by three seconds.
While at Brown Stojic distinguished himself as an elite oarsman even by the lofty standards of the Bears. In his first year he was a part of an undefeated freshmen eight, which won a national championship at the IRA Regatta and captured the prestigious Temple Cup at the Henley Royal Regatta. Stojic followed that the next year by stroking the Bears to another national championship in the varsity eight, a rare feat for an underclassman. Two years later he completed his collegiate career by again stroking the varsity eight to a second place finish at IRA's.
McGee also competed well in Beijing, along with her pair mate Anne Cummins. The pair finished fourth in their heat to begin competition after a dogfight throughout the race, with three boats finishing within a second and a half of one another. That sent them to reps, where they again just missed securing a spot in the grand finals, finishing one spot out of qualifying position. McGee and Cummins were able to dominate their final, however, posting the best split time for each of the first three 500's and eventually going on to win by over three seconds.
It was easy to identify McGee as a rising star when she was at Brown. She won the Eastern Sprints competition three times during her four years along with two NCAA championships, and was voted a captain as a senior. Since her graduation McGee has been a four-time member of the US National Team and was named USRowing's 2007 Female Athlete of the Year. In her final warm-up regatta before the Olympics she captured bronze in the straight pair and gold in the four at the FISA World Cup in Lucerne, Switzerland.