The Colgate Scene
A giant among us
Under head coach Khaled Sanad, Colgate crew has blossomed from a club team to a competitive varsity program
|By Isaac Goodling '08|
"Imagine wanting to learn the game of baseball, and having Joe Torre available to give a tutorial," Will Morrow of the Peninsula Clarion writes. "Or Phil Jackson on hand for a basketball clinic. Or Bill Belichick in town for a football camp. The Alaska Midnight Sun Rowing Association has just that in visiting coach Khaled Sanad."
Morrow wrote these words last summer when Sanad agreed to coach the Alaskan rowing club. What he left out was that the internationally renowned coach was visiting from Colgate, where he is the head coach of the men's crew.
And in fact, few other schools in the country can claim to have a coach with Sanad's credentials. His knowledge of the sport and innovation in coaching have allowed Colgate's small, non-scholarship program to compete with schools that have a tremendous advantage in funding and tradition.
Sanad, who arrived at Colgate in 2000, has overseen the transition from a club team to a competitive upper-level varsity program.
"Before, it was a lot less intense," said assistant coach Warren Holland '02, who also rowed under Sanad. "Khaled brought an expectation for success. His experience and knowledge have allowed us to be where we are today."
Sanad reached the pinnacle of the sport. He began his rowing career at age 15 and displayed such prowess that he was placed into the national team training program in his native Egypt only a year later. During a decade of competition, Sanad won seven Egyptian national titles and became the face of the sport in his country.
At the peak of his career, he qualified for the 1992 Olympics in both rowing and boxing. (The Egyptian Olympic committee did not have the funds to support rowing, so he was unable to compete.) He also attended the Sports Science School in Cairo, an innovative institution that brings together elite athletes and allows them to formulate and test hypotheses about athletics.
After training almost exclusively in Egypt and Europe during his career, Sanad was given an invitation to coach the Dutch national team. He declined, deciding instead to come to the United States in 1994 to learn alternative training techniques. It was here that he began his illustrious coaching career, beginning with a position at Grand Valley University, where he could simultaneously coach and continue his research on physiology. Sanad later moved on to coach the Egyptian national team.
In his final stop before coming to Colgate, Sanad coached the Penn AC elite, one of the nation's most prestigious rowing clubs, for the 2000 Olympic trials. It was at the trials that he was informally offered the Colgate position, which he initially refused. After discussing the offer with two Colgate students who were rowing for him at the time, he decided to reconsider.
"They were really good guys who needed someone to lead them, and they were willing to do anything to get better," Sanad said. "I thought I would stay for one or two years, but I like Colgate more than any other place that I have coached at. The students are some of the best athletes that I have worked with in terms of my relationship with them and their willingness to work hard."
Sanad made an immediate impact. In the spring of 2002, Colgate announced itself as an emerging program by finishing third at ECACs, a regatta attended by some of the nation's best teams. In the spring of 2004, the men's straight four took a gold medal at the IRA Championship, marking Colgate's first national championship. The next year the Raiders finished in second place at the same event.
In 2004, Egypt's Aly Ibrahim, one of Sanad's close friends and his heir as the premier single sculler in the country, asked Sanad to work with him to prepare for the upcoming Olympics. Sanad brought Ibrahim to Colgate to train, and Ibrahim finished 14th at Athens. The experience was prodigious for Sanad as well.
"Aly was carrying the flag and I was walking right behind him," Sanad said. "It was the best thing that ever happened to me."
This year at Colgate, despite the loss of five seniors to graduation in 2005, Sanad has refused to allow the team to slip into mediocrity. In what has to be considered a rebuilding year, the Raiders nonetheless achieved notable successes in the fall, highlighted by a first-ever win at the prestigious Head of the Charles regatta: the gold medal in the coxed four against stiff competition.
As the spring season gets underway and the team aims to consistently compete with the Ivies, Sanad will be an integral part of the process.
"A good coach can really make an impact on a team," Holland said, "and he is one of the best, if not the best, for a small university."
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