For Sisters, A
Very Good Year
outwrite Charlotte and Emily, outglitter Joan and Olivia or outwarble Patti,
LaVerne and Maxene, but it's safe to say those celebrated sisters could not, in
several lifetimes, outrow Judy and Carlie Geer, outrebound Pam and Paula McGee
or outskate Mary and Sarah Docter. These American athletes are stars in their
sports—and like all siblings, subject to rivalries made the more poignant by
their ties of blood. Herewith, the sisters of the year.
In one fluid
movement they push their oar handles away from themselves, sliding aft on their
seats, their knees coming up to their armpits, their arms extended as far in
front of them as possible till they make the catch, dropping the blades down
into the water, and whoooomph, they uncoil, pulling the oar handles back—legs
straightening out, arms back, backs back, hands back to their stomachs; then
again, reach, whoooomph, pull back; reach, whoooomph, back. The boat is full of
Geer sisters—two—the U.S. women's double-sculls champions.
says Judy Geer, at 28 the older of the pair, "the pleasure of rowing is in
the way the boat feels when it's going well. You take one stroke, you let it
run out, you're perfectly balanced, you're getting something free; you can't
wait to take another stroke, it feels so good. It's so easy to hurt and kill
yourself when the boat responds."
Judy, who in
October set a course record for the women's single sculling event at the
renowned Head of the Charles regatta, might not have become America's top woman
sculler if it weren't for the inescapable impetus she receives daily from her
admiring, inexhaustible 24-year-old sister, Carlie, who, like Judy, is both a
champion sculler and a champion sibling.
great," says Judy, whose serene chipped-tooth grin is visible even in the
darkness of the Dartmouth boat-house where the Geers keep their sculls.
"We're mutually bound to each other to do well. I'm really grateful to her
for her drive."
Neither of them
does anything without a whole lot of drive, or without somehow messing up her
short boyish hair. "I'm psyched to take a nap," Carlie will say,
throwing off her backpack and charging to her bedroom. They even knit as if it
were an aerobic exercise.
a lot like rowing," says Judy. "You do the same motion over and over.
In knitting, you throw in patterns; in rowing, you throw in different drills.
Last summer at the world championship in Germany, the U.S. team had a talent
show in which I brought out two oars and a plastic bag that I put on the
ground. Then I sat down, took some yarn out of the bag and started to knit with
"See, I like
symmetry. In sculling and knitting, your hands are right here in the middle;
you're perfectly balanced."
graduated from Dartmouth College—Judy with an A.B. in biology in 1975, Carlie
with an A.B. in geography in December of 1980—and both have remained in
Hanover, N.H., where every possible day they tear up turf, water, pavement
and/or snow as they run, row, swim, bike and/or cross-country ski themselves
into the extraordinary shape they are in. In winter, when ice on the
Connecticut River, which runs through the Dartmouth campus, makes rowing
impossible, they work out on a machine called a rowing ergometer and in the
school's rowing tanks.