Sibling Rivalry Plays Out on the Water

Matthew Coughlin (R) with his younger brother, Connor, at Sunday's race.

May 6, 2014

Sunday, May 4 was a day that has been circled on his calendar for months.

During a long and cold winter of training, GW men's rowing junior Matthew Coughlin had his mind set on a late spring race that would pit the Colonials against Navy, Columbia and FIT.

It wasn't the idea of facing the perennial national power Midshipmen that had Coughlin excited. Nor was it a rematch against FIT, whom the Colonials had swept at the 2013 George Washington Invitational.

Coughlin has been counting down the months and weeks in anticipation of facing Columbia, and his younger brother Connor, head-to-head.

"I have been thinking about this race for months," exclaimed Coughlin. "Especially during the dark winter training months, the idea of beating him usually got me through."

Teammates at Fordham Prep in the Bronx as high school students, both Matthew and Connor, a freshman at Columbia, row for their team's respective JV8 boats. Although they rowed in the same boat on several occasions in high school, the seeds of a rivalry were planted well before their rowing days.

"We were always very competitive growing up," said Coughlin. "We are only 18 months apart which I believe makes it inevitable. That competitive nature usually led to fights between the two of us when we were younger. My poor parents spent a lot of time in the emergency room after some legendary fights between us. Now that he is about three inches taller and 20 pounds heavier than me, I try not to provoke him too much. We let the rowing do the talking."

Columbia got the best of the Colonials on Sunday in the JV8, but Coughlin was happy to be able to compete against his brother on the Division I level after watching him grow as an athlete over the past few years.

"I think it is great that he is rowing at Columbia," said Coughlin. "In a sense it is kind of rewarding to see him at such a good school and a member of the team there because I was the one to get him into the sport initially and I know that he took a lot of my advice along the way. He was worked very hard over the past few years to get himself to where he is today and I know he has a lot of hard work ahead of him."



Although they faced each other as rivals on Sunday, the two brothers were nearly teammates this season after Connor made an official visit to GW last year.

"He was strongly considering coming here," said Coughlin. "He came for an official visit in the fall of his senior year and has visited me countless time. He really liked the guys on the team and how the program seems to be moving in the right direction. He always tells me if he wasn't at Columbia he would want to be here at GW."

Looking ahead, the brothers expect to face off against each other again next season in Matthew's final season of eligibility, but it is the upcoming summer that has Matthew excited for a reunion, rather than a rematch.

"This summer it looks like we are going to be rowing on the same team and I think it's a great chance to get some time in the same boat together," said Coughlin. "We've always spoke about getting together for a few races and I think this will be our first chance to do that."

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