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Row to London: Nareg Guregian

by Ed Moran | Mar 27, 2012
When Ani and Mirican Guregian immigrated to Southern California from Turkey, they worked hard to earn a living and establish themselves in their new home. Mirican worked as a laboratory technician and Ani is a registered nurse. When they had two children, daughter Noreen and son Nareg, they passed on the idea that to succeed, you have to work hard.
Lessons of Hard Work Passed Down From Parents

When Ani and Mirican Guregian immigrated to Southern California from Turkey, they worked hard to earn a living and establish themselves in their new home.

Mirican worked as a laboratory technician and Ani is a registered nurse. When they had two children, daughter Noreen and son Nareg, they passed on the idea that to succeed, you have to work hard.

“When my parents came to America in 1980 from Istanbul, they had to work for every penny they got,” Nareg said. “And they instilled that mentality in my sister and I.

“For my sister and I, it was understood that we had to go to college. There was no excuse for that kind of stuff. My parents always pushed us, nothing crazy or drastic, but they pushed us to do well in whatever we tried for.”

They have apparently gotten through.

Not only do they have a daughter who just graduated from law school and passed her bar exam, but their 23-year-old son has rowed on the United States men’s national rowing team four times, once as a junior, twice on the under 23 team and last summer as stroke seat of the men’s eight at the World Rowing Championships in Bled, Slovenia.

And now Nareg is hoping to earn a spot in the boat that will race in Luzerne, Switzerland at the Final Olympic Qualification Regatta in May, and then row in the 2012 Olympic Games in London this summer if they win.

Guregian is one of 16 rowers and two coxswains who are training at his alma mater, the University of California, Berkley, under coach Mike Teti in the camp from which the men’s eight will be chosen.

“We’re training and training and training and that’s all we are doing right now,” Guregian said. “It’s going well. The training is getting closer to real racing situations, but both boats are close and all 16 guys are doing well right now.”

It makes for an intense atmosphere, one that requires focus and determination, just the kind of thing Guregian’s parents taught.

Guregian has been successful at rowing since he began in his senior year in high school in the AGBU Manoogian-Demirdjian School, a school established by the Armenian General Benevolent Union to service the growing population of Armenians in Southern California. While his parents were raised in Turkey, the Guregians are of Armenian decent and consider themselves Armenian.

The school was small, and while it had a basketball team – at 6’5”, Nareg Guregian was a standout player – it didn’t have rowing. But he had an aunt and uncle who paddled outrigger kayaks from the Marina Aquatic Center in Los Angeles and they urged him to try rowing.

“They were telling me when I was younger that I should row,” Guregian said. “I didn’t even know what rowing was, and one day at the beginning of my senior year, they took me to the aquatic center and I just started rowing and it was fun. I was one of the biggest guys there and the club wasn’t like Marin or Oakland Strokes – clubs that are really, really big. I got there and the coach wanted me to join, so I did.

“I played basketball throughout high school, but once we started racing, it was an unparalleled experience. You’re side by side with a person you’re trying to beat and you are just exhausted in the end. You give it your all and when you win, it’s a really rewarding feeling. You put a lot of hard work into it and when you come out on top you’re just so relieved and so happy. It’s an addicting feeling.”

So Guregian put everything into it and spent one day every weekend at an indoor training facility in Newport Beach called Iron Oarsman that was founded and run the Swiss Olympic champion single sculler, Xeno Muller, who had rowed under coach Steve Gladstone at Brown.

Gladstone was the head men’s coach at Cal at the time, and Muller pointed Guregian in that direction.

“He was always urging me to go to Cal and I didn’t know anything about college rowing programs,” Guregian said. “I thought rowing was all about East Coast Ivy League schools. He told me, ‘no, you have to go to Cal.’ So I applied to Cal and I went up there for a visit and loved it from the first day I saw it.”

He rowed his freshman year under Jeff Bond “and he taught me to really work hard. When you’re rowing or playing basketball in high school, you think you’re giving it your all, but once you get to the college level and you’re with guys who were the best in their clubs and high school, you realize if you want to compete or make the top boat, you really have to put in an effort.”

In 2009, Guregian rowed for Gladstone on the varsity squad his second year, but in his junior year, Gladstone left to focus on his role at the California Rowing Club. Teti, fresh off of a bronze medal performance in Beijing as the U.S. men’s head coach, took the job.

“I thought I was so lucky to have rowed for two great coaches in Jeff Bond and then Steve Gladstone. Then we got the Olympic coach, which was definitely another experience.”

Teti amped up the training and set standards that would require his rowers to work harder than they ever had. For Guregian, it paid off with a selection to the national team.

Stroking the men’s eight last summer was an honor, but when the U.S. eight failed to qualify for the Olympics at the world championships, Guregian and his teammates were dejected and embarrassed.

“Obviously the world championships were very disappointing,” he said. “We didn’t do what we were expected to do; we didn’t do our job. Our job was not just to qualify the boat, but also to medal and to win. We all felt we had that opportunity.

“First, not making the A final was extremely disappointing, and then not qualifying the boat was a huge downer. It was humiliating,” he said.

Guregian said that when the team got home (from Slovenia), the mentality was about making things right.

“The mentality we had when we came back to Chula Vista was pretty good. We had our heads up,” he said. “We all understood that we had performed badly. We just had to get back into racing. We have to win this race in Lucerne. Whoever is in the boat knows they have to win. There is no second place, no third place. Then you earn the opportunity to go to the Olympics.

“The level expected of us is really high,” he said. “Everyone has stepped up to the plate and is really excited.”

SHORT STROKES

Guregian graduated from Cal with a degree in Media Studies and Mass Communications and would like to pursue a career in marketing and communications after rowing . . . He said he likes doing  “just regular things that most other people like – hanging out with friends, relaxing a lot, watching TV. I play a little bit of the guitar and piano, just enough to hold my own messing around, nothing much” . . . For years, his USRowing bio stated that he enjoys running ultra marathons . . . “It’s a big fib.” He hates running and anyone who knows him was aware. “I just wanted to write something my friends would laugh at if they ever saw it. Running, he said, “always hurt really badly, it was more painful than it should have been, especially for me, because I’m one of the bigger guys. I’d rather erg than run. I don’t know too many people who would say that” . . . He lists President Barack Obama as his personal hero. And of that he is serious. “He did something no one else has done, he became the first African American president and that was a huge accomplishment. I’m on his side. Maybe hero is the wrong word for it, but I look up to him. What he’s done has meant something to me and just shows me nothing is impossible.”
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