Christine Cavallo: Beyond the Water

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Christine Cavallo training in the single scull in Craftsbury, Vermont — by Jenn Forbes

It’s all about the journey for Christine Cavallo. A 2021 Olympic hopeful, Cavallo has dedicated the last nine years of her life to rowing. However, her road to Tokyo started much before she fell in love with the sport. A well-rounded individual, Cavallo’s passion and commitment to both academic and athletic excellence led her to find her true passion in rowing. And as they say — the rest is history.

Patience & Perseverance

A native of Windemere, FL Cavallo grew up a gymnast, a soccer player and academically driven. At a young age, she developed Sever’s Disease (also known as Calcaneal Apophysitis)- a type of bone injury where the growth plate in the back of the heel becomes inflamed and causes pain. This prevented her from continuing on in gymnastics so Cavallo switched to playing soccer.

She made the Varsity Soccer team in seventh grade while also running for the Varsity Track and Field team. Yet once again she became riddled with injuries, and a torn ligament led to chronic subluxation in her kneecap at just 13 years old.

While Cavallo persevered through the recovery process, recurring knee injuries ultimately forced her to hang up her cleats in favor of running. The linear motion of running allowed Cavallo to train intensely without fear of re-injury.

Her dedication to track inadvertently led Cavallo to rowing, when she first looked to the ergometer as a cross-training tool. Although she had her sights set on running the 400m in high school, Cavallo was a natural on the water and had an extraordinary talent that couldn’t be ignored.

And so it begins…

Cavallo began rowing as a freshman in high school and quickly fell in love with the sport. She competed as part of the Orlando Area Rowing Society (OARS) and was coached by the program director Kirsten Anderson. In the summers she was mentored by Chris Chase and Eric Catalano of the Saratoga Rowing Association.

Freshman year, Cavallo won the Southeast Regional Erg Sprints and ended her first season with a 2K time of 7:22. Sophomore year she won again, this time qualifying for the CRASH-B Junior Indoor Rowing Championships in Boston. She placed 4th, but began to come into her own the following year and returned to win the Junior Women’s Lightweight event with a 2K time of 7:16. That summer, she raced to a silver medal with partner Kadie Brown at the Junior World Championships.

To top it off, in her senior year Cavallo defended her lightweight title at the CRASH-B Indoor Rowing Championships with a time of 7:05.7, setting the Junior World record and falling a remarkable 11 seconds short of the Senior World Record set by Ursula Grobler.

Cavallo credits her success to the tremendous coaching she received from Cass Cunningham. Standing at five-foot-four, Cavallo is often considered undersized for an elite rower. However, small stature has never deterred Cavallo. She uses this criticism as a catalyst for her training and has continuously challenged the narrative of the stereotypical ‘rower’ body type. After graduating as an honor roll recipient, Cavallo took her competitive spirit and enthusiasm for learning to Stanford University.

A world of possibilities

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Christine Cavallo training with Stanford Lightweight Women’s Team — by Row2k

At Stanford, Cavallo was a two-time All American and helped the team to three consecutive National Championships in 2015, 2016 and 2017. An International Relations major with a minor in Geologic and Environmental Sciences, Cavallo quickly became an integral member of the Stanford community.

Adventurous and with a zest for exploring the world, Cavallo took two summers off (2015 & 2016) to pursue academia. She spent time in South Africa completing her honors thesis research on the Lesotho Highlands Water project. Here, she helped redesign existing healthcare policies to improve the quality of care in local South African townships.

Cavallo also studied abroad in Florence (2015) and worked in Brussels (2016) where she interned at the European Parliament, helping research and cultivate sustainable city models for the European Union.

These worldly experiences have each played a pivotal role in shaping Cavallo into the individual she is today. This newfound confidence from traveling the world enabled her to resume training with a fresh perspective and a mindset that anything is possible.

More than an Athlete

In her post-graduate training year, Cavallo closed the 11-second gap to Grobler and won the first-ever World Rowing Indoor Championships with a record time of 6:54.1. Currently, she holds two world records and is a four-time US Rowing National Team Member. While these achievements are indicative of her athletic talents, Cavallo’s reach goes beyond her accomplishments on the water.

She recently completed her Masters in Environmental Communications at Stanford University- dedicating her time to studying geopolitical problems and environmental issues. Her ultimate goal is to assist in creating more sustainable and ecologically-friendly communities.

Cavallo has also remained involved at Stanford University through the Partners for Academic Excellence (PAE) program which helps incoming student-athletes with the academic, athletic and social transition to university. She is a vocal supporter of the Save Stanford Rowing campaign- an initiative that combats financial restrictions placed on her alma mater. She also sits on the inaugural board of the Stanford Rowing Association.

Cavallo has also positively impacted her local rowing community, coaching rowers of different heights, genders, sizes and experience levels. Particularly enthusiastic about working with young women, she has empowered her athletes to relentlessly pursue their rowing goals while encouraging them to be just as fervent in other parts of their lives and use their voices to speak out on world issues and social injustices.

As dedicated as she is to the success of her community, Cavallo balances these activities with the commitment to herself and chasing her dreams of representing Team USA at the Tokyo 2021 Olympic Games. Cavallo is a Tagalong pro and if you’re as inspired by her story as we are- booking a session with her through Tagalong can help financially support her journey while exposing yourself to Olympic-caliber training. From her early soccer days to her rowing world records, all of Cavallo’s life experiences have led to this moment and now you can Tagalong for the ride!

Join us on the Road to Tokyo:

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