Tim Konieczny used to joke with his son Joshua about a way to repay him for the constant travel to rowing competitions across the country.
Winning an Olympic Medal.
Now, 25-year-old Ohio-native Joshua Konieczny is in Rio de Janeiro alongside US Men’s Rowing teammate Andy Campbell, and the possibility of him winning his first medal is becoming a reality.
“Hauling him to Cincinnati, Columbus, Cleveland and a couple of nationals … I used to tease him. I told him my payback is the first Olympic medal,” Tim Konieczny trailed off, lifting his hands to his eyes, trying to stop the tears from falling.
After three rounds of competition, Joshua Konieczky is now one step away from reaching that goal, competing in the lightweight men’s double sculls finals on Aug. 12.
“At that time, [winning a medal] was a joke; it was a dream,” said his mother, Joyce Konieczky. “We’re so proud of him. I think Dad can’t express enough how much pride he has for what Josh has accomplished.”
While Lagoa Stadium is a big scenery change from his usual competitions in the United States, his support system has remained the same nearly 4,500 miles away from home.
Joining his parents, four of his cousins and an aunt also traveled to Brazil to see Joshua Konieczny compete on the world’s biggest stage.
Months before he qualified at the US Rowing Trials, his cousins and siblings, Jenny Miller, 21, Dan Miller, 22, and Craig Miller, 19, had their plane tickets to Rio.
So they did, and four months later, Joshua Konieczny secured his spot on his first US Olympic team.
Joshua Konieczky and Campbell qualified with a time of 6:32.86 at the US Rowing Trials in April, nearly five seconds faster than the second-place team at the qualifiers and gold-medal winning time at the 2012 London Games. The duo advanced to the semi-finals after their 6:26.56 run in the heat round of competition, followed up by a time of 6:35.19 in the semifinal to become one of six teams to compete for a medal.
His mother, Joyce Konieczky, has already spent some time in Rio and still didn’t believe the moment was real, even as she stood atop the Christ the Redeemer statue, one of the most historical landmarks in Rio de Janeiro.
“It’s really unbelievable that from the time that he told us, ‘Mom and Dad, I think I have what it takes to make it to the Olympics,’ and that we’re actually here,” she said. “You have to pinch yourself.”
It was just over four years ago when Joshua Konieczny, who has now been rowing for 11 years, decided to chase the dream of becoming an Olympian. The Konieczkys weren’t very involved with athletics, and as a result, Joshua Konieczky didn’t play sports prior to high school.
Since his uncle rowed, he decided to give it a try during his freshman year at St. John’s Jesuit High School and Academy in Millbury, Ohio.
“He wanted to start a sport where he wasn’t behind the learning curve of a lot of other students playing basketball or football,” Tim Konieczny said. “He tried (rowing), got involved with a really good group of people, and it was almost an infectious disease that carried on.”
His parents were always there, sacrificing whole weekends driving him to competitions, just to see him for a minute.
“It’s not a spectator sport. You see your kid for a minute of the race, and your whole weekend is thrown into that,” Tim Konieczny said.
Still, his parents saw success since the earliest stages of his rowing career. Joshua Konieczny quickly became the team captain in high school and was recruited by Dartmouth, where he led the Big Green as a captain once again.
The real test came after he graduated with an economics degree and had to work a full-time job while also preparing for the 2016 Olympic Games with Campbell in Boston.
When Joshua Konieczny thought he had chance to become an Olympian, Tim and Joyce Konieczny believed in him and supported his decision to put his life on hold.
“Our deal with the kids is: any reasonable, thought-out plan, [and] we’ll back you,” Tim Konieczny said. “Professional or college, as long as they were dedicated and serious about it, we’ll back them up. The offer still holds.”
Even if Joshua Konieczny doesn’t end up on the podium after the finals, his father couldn’t be prouder.
“He already has (paid me back).”
Konieczny and Campbell will be in lane 2 for the finals on Friday, with the race beginning at9:44 a.m. EST.
Robby General and Kaitlin Lange are Ball State University students and write for the Ball State at the Games, a group of 50 journalism students traveling from Muncie, Indiana, to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. Follow them at bsuatthegames.com, @bsuatthegames on Twitter and Instagram, and faebook.com/bsuatthegames on Facebook.
I’m Kaitlin Lange, a senior political science and journalism major at Ball State. I am finishing up an internship at the Indianapolis Star where I have focused much of my time on politics, education and breaking news. Last year I was the editor of the Ball State Daily News, our school’s student newspaper. I love telling people’s stories and also explaining complex issues in an easy to understand way. You can guarantee I’ll somehow find a way to bring up cats in one of my stories while in Rio.