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No Medals In Tokyo, But Conn. Olympians Win Hometown Pride

Tony Spinelli
Connecticut Public
Family and fans gather at the Garde Arts Center in New London to watch Puerto Rico take on Belgium during the Tokyo Olympics. India Pagan, 22, was born and raised in New London and is a member of Puerto Rico's women's basketball team. Pictured (from left) are Pagan's sister Taina, mom Carmen and dad Moises.

A crowd gathered at a Connecticut country club to watch Old Lyme natives Austin Hack and Liam Corrigan compete in the men's eight Olympic rowing final for Team USA.

Those watching let out a gasp when the United States finished one second off the podium.

The race took place in Japan on Friday, but Mindy Welch and other Old Lyme residents were watching in Connecticut on what was Thursday night.

“It was like excitement and disappointment,” Welch said, “but yet we know how hard they trained.”

Frankie Graziano / Connecticut Public
Rowing was on the monitor Thursday night at a country club in Old Lyme as locals gathered to watch Old Lyme's Austin Hack and Liam Corrigan compete in Olympic men’s eight final.

Team USA rowed the course with a time of 5:26.75, 1.02 seconds behind bronze medalist Great Britain.

Andressa Johnson stood near Welch as they both watched Hack and Corrigan on a monitor at a bar inside the Old Lyme Country Club. Welch has rowed in Old Lyme for 40 years, while Johnson has been rowing there for only three years. But it doesn’t take longevity in a given program for a rower to recognize that what’s happening with Hack and Corrigan is uncommon.

“I’ve rowed in many parts of the country — my husband is in the military, so we move a lot — and I ended up joining a lot of rowing clubs,” Johnson said. “It’s not normal to have two people from your club in the Olympics. It’s not.”

Her current rowing club is the Blood Street Sculls, the same one for which Hack and Corrigan rowed.

“We are cheering not just for USA and rowing, it’s for a friend,” Johnson said. “It’s for family. That’s how Blood Street is.”

Frankie Graziano / Connecticut Public
Andressa Johnson gasps during a tense moment of the Olympic men’s eight rowing final. Johnson and others met at the Old Lyme Country Club on Thursday night to watch two Old Lyme men, Austin Hack and Liam Corrigan, compete for a gold medal in the Tokyo Olympic Games.

Both of the Old Lyme Olympians went to Lyme-Old Lyme High School. The Tokyo Summer Games are Corrigan’s first Olympics and Hack’s second.

While they didn’t medal in the men’s eight final, three rowers who went to Yale University did. One of them was Dan Williamson, a rower on the gold-medal-winning New Zealand team.

About 16 miles east of Old Lyme, friends and family of Olympic basketball player India Pagan gathered at the Garde Arts Center in New London to watch Puerto Rico play Belgium.

Tony Spinelli / Connecticut Public
A display for a watch party is readied at the Garde Arts Center in New London with posters of India Pagan. Pagan, 22, was born and raised in New London and plays for Puerto Rico on the women's basketball team.

Pagan played for New London's recreational league and high school. She is in the middle of her college career at Stony Brook University. Her parents planted roots in New London but kept close ties to their native island.

Pagan's younger sister, Taina, watched the game from New London and talked about what it meant for her to play for Puerto Rico.

“It’s so heartwarming to represent where our parents have grown up and where they were born,” Taina Pagan said.

Belgium won the game, but the crowd of more than 50 supporters went home proud to have their very own New London Olympian.

Tony Spinelli / Connecticut Public
India Pagan's mother, Carmen (right) and sister Taina (left), onstage at the Garde Arts Center in New London during a watch party for Team Puerto Rico.

If you read any of Frankie Graziano’s previous biographies, they’d be all about his passion for sports. But times change – and he’s a family man now.
Brenda León is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Brenda covers the Latino/a, Latinx community with an emphasis on wealth-based disparities in health, education and criminal justice.

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