USA Olympic Rower Alex Miklasevich Goes for Gold in Tokyo Games while His Dad Matt and Sports Family Cheers Him On
When the United States competes in the Men's 8 Rowing competition in the Tokyo Olympic games later this month, Alex Miklasevich will be living out his dream as a part of the team.
Miklasevich, a 6-foot-8 Brown University and Pittsburgh's Central Catholic High School graduate, comes from an amazing sports-rich family that includes his father Matt Miklasevich who played basketball for the University of Pittsburgh in the mid 80's.
Alex and Matt joined SportsJam with Doug Doyle to talk about the upcoming Olympic games and share their stories of sports success.
Alex joined the show via Zoom from the National Team Training Center in Oakland, California while Matt connected from his sister's home in Florida.
Matt was SportsJam host Doug Doyle's high school basketball teammate and fellow starter at Franklin Regional High School in Murrysville, Pennsylvania. Matt's late brother Dave was the star center of that squad. Matt's sister Pam (Pitt) and former SportsJam guest Cheryl Ellison (Penn State) helped FRHS win a state championship in the late 1970's. Pam would go on to become an All-American at the University of Pittsburgh and lead the nation in free-throw shooting. The Miklasevich family was primarily responsible for several great basketball seasons at Franklin Regional as they brought their hard-working talent, smarts and height to the hardwood. Matt is 6'7.
But Matt's three children pursued a different sport. First it was Matthew Miklasevich, who eventually rowed at MIT, followed by Alex at Brown University and then sister Julia rowed at Ohio State University.
How did such a basketball family go from the court to the waters? Matt says geography and great coaching at Pittsburgh's Central Catholic High School certainly helped his kids.
"Pittsburgh has the three rivers and they really do have a wonderful rowing program, lots of schools, on the Allegheny, Mon (Monongahela) and down on the Ohio. Alex, Matthew and Julia did play basketball. It wasn't their passion, they enjoyed it. They did soccer, they enjoyed it. But rowing, Central Catholic, Matthew was the oldest and they had a program, they went to all the Catholic schools to talk about the program in 8th grade. They also invite boys and girls down to row for a day to learn. Matthew enjoyed it and I think Alex may have even tagged along a little bit, but Matthew in 9th grade loved it, lot of hard and early work and Alex was just immersed in it. And once Alex got into it, then Julia got into it."
Some crew program for sure. Alex's high school teammate and long-time friend Michael Grady has also made the USA Olympic Rowing team. Both were taught by Central Catholic coach Jay Hammond. Grady will compete in the Men's 4. Alex says making the Olympic team and having his friend to train with has been very special.
"It's pretty incredible we've gone this whole way together. It's hard to describe. We've just been competing against each other as soon as we started and then rowing with each other through the summer, so it's been really great to come out here and sort of reconnect like we did in high school and keep competing, learning and supporting each other."
Alex Miklasevich's rowing career has been spectacular competing for five national teams. Some of his international results include finishing second in the eight at the 2019 World Rowing Under 23 Championships. He won gold in the four with coxswain at the 2018 World Rowing Under 23 Championships.
There's a strong possibility the Americans can medal in Men's 8 despite a lack of experience. Austin Hack returns to the Games, the only returning member of the team that finished just off the podium in fourth in Rio. The other members of the team joining Hack are all first-time Olympians including Miklasevich, Justin Best, Liam Corrigan, Ben Davison, Conor Harrity, Nick Mead, Alexander Richards and Julian Venonsky. Miklasevich says it's a strong contingent of rowers.
"Whatever boat you're competing in the Olympics, you have expectations. I think, we really haven't raced anyone outside of our team since 2019 (due to the coronavirus pandemic), so it's hard to say but I know the team is stronger than it had been the year before. We're going in there to try and do our best. That's all we can focus on. It's too hard to focus on other teams. We're in a great place. I think we'll do very well there."
Alex's dad Matt and the rest of the family won't be in Tokyo to watch the rowing races in Tokyo because of the restrictions in Japan, but Matt will be glued to any outlet showing live results as well as those repackaged for television.
"I believe they have 10-thousand Japanese citizens that will be able to go. We'll be having watch parties in Pittsburgh at two o'clock in the morning cheering on Team USA and just enjoying the competition when they cut it up for consumption the next day (on NBC) but I do want to watch if they do have it on the web on the Olympic stations, the raw feed that you see what's happening as it is going on."
Matt Miklasevich certainly knows what it means to compete at a high level. His University of Pittsburgh basketball teams played in a era when the Big East Conference was filled with top-notch talent like Georgetown's Patrick Ewing. Miklasevich earned a reputation for being extremely physical and used his elbows to clear out the paint. He recalls his battles with Ewing.
"It was very memorable. He was a great competitor and I was happy to get underneath his skin and move him out of his comfort zone so that we could win that game. I do remember battles with him, with St. John's with Chris Mullin and Bill Wennington, Otis Thorpe from Providence, I mean you're in Newark, so with Seton Hall we had some battles there, a lot of good memories from college."
Matt thinks his Alex's success and well as his own come down to finding a sport you love and working hard every day to get better, something Matt and siblings learned from their parents.
When rowing through the waters, Alex says it's much more than just great leg strength and proper stroke technique. He gives plenty of credit to his Brown University coach Paul Cooke.
"I always try to stay humble and I try to just do what I do and let that speak for itself. Paul was great. He taught us a lot of great lessons that I think you can only learn through giving yourself fully to a process and living with the results of that. He taught us how to work incredibly hard."
Alex says Olympic Rowing coach Mike Teti has been phenomenal.
"He knows how to push me to the next level and really question is that your best?"
The Miklasevich family is hoping the best will mean a medal in Tokyo.
You can see the entire interview with Alex and Matt Miklasevich at https://fb.watch/v/g4Qf2VdPG/.