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Olympian Matt Smith Reunites With '98 Teammate Greg Hughes To Coach Heavies

By: Princeton Athletic Communications
          Release: 08/22/2014
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Matt Smith spent his last six seasons coaching at Cornell. Insert: Greg Hughes (left) and Matt Smith teamed as the lightweight spare pair at the 1998 World Championships.
Courtesy: Princeton Athletic Communications
Matt Smith, a 2004 United States Olympian and a coach with strong collegiate and international experience, has been named assistant coach of the Princeton heavyweight program, it was announced Friday by head coach Greg Hughes.

Smith, who has served as associate head coach at Cornell for the last six seasons, has spent his last three summers as either an assistant coach or head of the USRowing Under-23 men’s national team. He specifically selected and trained the 2014 men’s eight, which included two returning Princeton heavyweights in James Hamp and Patrick Kontinnen, and led the boat to a bronze medal.

“Matt has proven himself as a champion, a role model and a leader,” Hughes said. “His character, attitude and tireless work ethic as an athlete, soldier and coach will have an immediate impact on the spirit and performance of our team and on the Princeton boathouse. Through all of Matt’s achievements, he has proven his ability to connect with every member of his squad in a way that builds a sound team environment and fast boats. 

“I am extremely excited that Matt is now going to be a part of our team,” Hughes added. “I know that Matt is going to play a key role in our effort to build upon the very strong Princeton Heavyweight performances of the last few years.”

Hughes and Smith have a relationship that dates back to their own rowing days; they served as the LM2- spare pair at the 1998 World Championships (see photo). During that time period, Smith was a medalist at both Eastern Sprints and the IRA Championships for Wisconsin. He was also a team captain for the Badgers and a three-time Academic All-Big Ten selection.

“My relationship with Greg Hughes began on Lake Carnegie in 1998 as we rowed together as spares for the World Championship team,” Smith said. “Greg mentored me and taught me a lot over the summers of 1998 and 1999 as a teammate and then as my coach on the US National Team. Sixteen years later I'm honored to return to Princeton to work alongside Greg and the entire Tiger community. I am very appreciative of Mollie Marcoux, Anthony Archbald, and Greg for bringing me and my family back to the Princeton boathouse in a coaching capacity.”

Smith had a highly successful six-year tenure at Cornell, where he guided five crews to medals at the Eastern Sprints. His freshman eight earned a bronze medal at the 2014 Sprints, it was the lone Cornell boat to reach a grand final at the IRA Championships. Over the last three years, his freshman eight has posted a 12-2 record during the regular season and medalled each year at Sprints.

“This opportunity would not have been conceivable without the direct support and mentorship provided by Andy Noel (Cornell AD), Anita Brenner (Cornell Associate AD), and most importantly head coach Todd Kennett over the past six years at Cornell University,” Smith said. “I'm extremely excited to immediately start working with Greg to get the Tiger boats on the top of the podium. Go Tigers!”

Following his graduation from Wisconsin in 2000, Smith was commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Army where he continued his elite rowing career in the Army’s World Class Athlete Program.

During his time in the military, Smith was promoted twice, eventually earning the rank of Captain, and was awarded the Bronze Star and Meritorious Service Medals for exceptional duty in combat and peacetime operations. He is a graduate of the U.S. Army Ranger School and Airborne School.

A seven-time member of the U.S national rowing team, Smith has won medals at the Pan-American Games, World Championships, and National Championships, while also representing the U.S. in the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece.

Smith joins a program coming off its best year at the IRA Championships since 2006. The Tigers returned to the medal stand at Eastern Sprints, then posted a fourth-place finish at the IRA Championships. Princeton returns six members of that varsity eight, including five who competed at the U-23 World Championships.

Smith is married to Hilary Gehman, a six-time member of the U.S. national rowing team and a two-time Olympian. They have two sons, Luke and Carson.

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