A certain irony exists when you hear Olympian Florin Curuea dubbed a hometown hero by his Pine-Richland cheering section.
His hometown, after all, is in Romania.
The crew coach for and the founder of the Pittsburgh Rowing Club has a special place within the hearts of his friends and students, who row out of Groveton Boat Club in Robinson Township, close to Neville Island on the Ohio River.
“He’s very passionate about his friends and his sport,” said Curuea’s close friend and fellow rowing coach, Mark Roberts.
Rowing Around the World
It’s that passion that led Curuea to Pittsburgh in the first place.
Curuea came to the states in 2006 on an O-1 Visa, which allowed him in the U.S. based solely on his excellence in his own extraordinary talent—rowing, according to Roberts.
Back in Romania, Curuea was on the military rowing team, one of the most prestigious teams in the country.
Curuea came to the U.S. to meet friends from Romania who were part of a rowing team in Pittsburgh, said Roberts.
He never left.
Florin the Coach
Just rowing in Pittsburgh wasn’t enough for Curuea. He wanted to share his favorite sport with the community.
So he created the Pittsburgh Rowing Club in 2008 with the goal of sharing his excitement for rowing with as many people as he could. The club aligns itself with Pine-Richland High School and also has two other divisions—the Masters, which is the adult crew, and the Juniors.
“I think his personality was a huge driving force. He had a vision, a goal to create a community of rowing here,” Roberts said.
His vision has paid off—kids and adults take to the water regularly from the docks at the rowing club’s boathouse.
A Second Family
Cynthia Cromer wasn’t expecting to end up in a boat when she came to talk to Curuea about her twin sons joining the club.
Cromer said that Curuea has a friendly way of peer pressuring people into giving his beloved sport a chance and in her case it worked. Cromer is now a member of the Masters and her sons also row with the club.
“My favorite thing about the team is that it’s like a second family,” said Bennett, Cromer’s son. His twin brother Beckett mirrored Curuea’s enthusiasm.
“Rowing is like a drug—once you start, you can’t quit,” said Beckett.
As a coach, Curuea runs the rowing practices and workouts throughout the week. He can coach the team in the water by following them around in his own boat with a megaphone, shouting out directions.
“He’s an amazing man. He has the ability to joke around with you one minute and then be serious the next,” Cromer said. She joked that Curuea had eyes on the back of his head and a no-nonsense attitude when it came to dealing with the kids.
“If he’s ever in a bad mood it’s because someone hit an oar over a tree or something,” she added.
Another rowing mom, Judy Rodgers, chimed in that any time one of the kids drops or bangs up the equipment, the big joke is that they “can hear Florin yelling from Romania.”
The kids don’t seem to mind the discipline.
“He’s tough, he knows how to control the crowd and he’s very inspirational,” said Rodgers’ daughter, Kelly.
Curuea pushes the kids to their maximum potential while also pushing himself.
On the Path to the Olympics
In the months leading up to the Olympic trials, Curuea had a strict plan for himself, according to Roberts.
He regimented his eating habits down to a strict daily diet. In addition, he spent three months working out twice a day for four hours a day without fail.
“As the days went on it was very tough, but he had this beacon,” Roberts said.
Curuea kept a journal of his workout schedule and diet to closely track his progress.
“His progress was very measured. He had a plan. It was never willy nilly and it was never left up to chance,” Roberts said.
After weeks of testing and races and five more weeks of training back home in Romania, he officially made it onto Romania’s national team.
“Florin is showing that if you really commit yourself, it can take you to the Olympics and your dreams,” Roberts said. “It’s really cool to have a hometown hero.”