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Although their temperaments are very different, their builds are similar. As they stand side by side at the end of the dock, sweaty and disheveled, watching corn husks float down the Connecticut ("In Philadelphia they have bodies floating down the river," says Judy), their broad shoulders merge into a formidable front, poised and eager to blast out over the water. Carlie is the more likely to get moody and upset. She walks with a slight cockiness, kind of a restrained cowboy swagger that makes her seem to be roaming even when she's standing still. Judy is more the peacemaker, steady, resilient, an intellectual who carries her strength with an easy, self-contained grace.
"We're competitive with each other," says Judy, "and that makes us work harder. Sometimes our competitiveness works against us because it makes us overtrain. Neither of us likes to have the other one work more."
"We're getting better at telling each other not to row if we're both tired," says Carlie. "But really, our main problem is having someone tell us not to work."
Carlie, who won the singles at the nationals in San Diego last June—Judy, who was saving an aching back for other events, didn't compete—came in fourth at the Head of the Charles. It isn't easy having an older sister who beats you all the time.
"Judy's got a certain racing edge that I've still got to get," Carlie says. "I'm as strong as she is; she's just got a little more ability to kill herself than I do.
"It can get frustrating. Sure I'd love to beat her. Sometimes I feel like I just keep chasing her and chasing her. I was really upset at the Charles. I'd felt good and thought I'd rowed well, but then there were all these people congratulating Judy, and nobody was congratulating me. I thought, 'Gee, here I can't even appreciate the fact that I had a good race!' "
She hasn't had to get too upset too often, because for most of her international rowing career she has performed in a double with Judy. Judy has been on the women's national team since 1976; Carlie didn't join her until the year before last. When the two of them decided to pack all their muscle and gumption into one boat, the results were remarkable. Two summers ago at the European Championships in Lucerne, Switzerland, they came in a close second to the world champion East Germans. At an international regatta in Amsterdam that summer, they won two days in a row and set a course record.
Last June at the San Diego nationals, they triumphed in every sculling event; Carlie won the singles, together they won the doubles, and with two other women they won the quad event. In July they had the honor of being in the first boat on the water in the first women's race ever held at England's la-di-da, 142-year-old, heretofore men-only Henley Royal Regatta; the Geers, who came in a close second behind a Canadian boat, are too down-to-earth to have been anything but amused by all the fanciness.
"Showers? Why take showers during the summer?" says Carlie, showing typical Geer disdain for all but the absolute necessities of life. "Why bother? You just get dirty again in a couple of hours, and it's such a waste of water. We swim every day, anyway."
Both of them were relieved that the tradition of presenting a flower to the boats that make it to the world championship finals was discontinued last summer. "I mean, flowers," says Judy. "You know a flower just wilts and dies. Now, if they gave us a plant, a potted plant, maybe an herb I could cook with, now that would be practical."