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Sunday, July 20, 2014

Hollis brothers Nick and Alez Karowski have Olympic ambitions

By NICK CANELAS

Correspondent

Nick and Alex Karwoski have spent most of their lives competing against one another.

Whether it be in basketball, ping-pong, water skiing or video games, the two brothers from Hollis grew up always trying to best one another. The winner claimed sheer bragging rights, while the loser was forced to withstand the verbal firestorm until the chance to square off. ...

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Nick and Alex Karwoski have spent most of their lives competing against one another.

Whether it be in basketball, ping-pong, water skiing or video games, the two brothers from Hollis grew up always trying to best one another. The winner claimed sheer bragging rights, while the loser was forced to withstand the verbal firestorm until the chance to square off.

“It wasn’t to brag to mom and dad, it was because it really got under the other person’s skin when they lost,” Nick said.

One time, things got so heated during a game of Mario Kart on the Nintendo 64 that Nick, two years Alex’s senior, pushed his younger sibling to the ground following a loss and gave him a concussion. The two were attending The Groton School.

“I may or may not have tripped over something and hit my head,” Alex said. “He took me to the health center and I was all fine. It was all good. No love lost.”

At 26 and 23 – Alex turns 24 in September – the Karwoskis are still as competitive as ever. But now they’re pulling for one another to fulfill the same dream: to represent the United States in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Nick, a triathlete, and Alex, a rower, were introduced to sports by their parents, Ted and Donna, at a young age. They played soccer, T-Ball and ran cross country for the Nashua Police Athletic League. During the summer, Ted and Donna would take their sons and two daughters, Lauren and Gina, on family trips to go hiking, bike-riding, compete in triathlons, or go swimming at Lake Winnipesaukee.

No matter what they were doing, they always kept score.

“We’re a very active family,” Ted, 61, said. “There’s always been a constant battle, if you will, to stay active and be better. That internal competition was fed between the two of them.”

By high school, Nick and Alex became fully invested in their passion for sports. They both had successful careers in cross country and crew, and continued their athletic careers in college.

Nick ran Division III track at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania, while Alex rowed for one year at Trinity College before transferring to Cornell and participating in Division I crew.

“It’s kind of funny,” Alex said. “Nick was actually a better rower than I was in high school and I was actually a better runner than he was.

“When we both went off to college he wanted to keep running and I realized fairly early on my freshman year in college that a lot less people row in the world than run. I guess it sort of dawned on me that I was decent at both, but if I could really commit to one it seemed as if rowing had more open avenues.”

But neither had yet to even consider the Olympics a possibility, or even much of a dream, at the time.

Nick spent the next three years after graduation working in Los Angeles, recovering from a torn abdominal muscle and starting a business with some friends in New Hampshire before his first big opportunity came in January. His college coach, Don Nichter, forwarded him an email from a recruiter at USA Triathlon.

He had just basic experience in swimming and biking, but his extensive background in running made him qualified enough to try out.

By April 1, he was in Scottsdale, Az., training with some of the best triathletes in the world. Now, he already feels that he’s up to speed with the rest of the group.

“It’s kind of motivating and very encouraging to think that I’ve trained with these guys and I’m seeing them race and I’m not too far behind, having only done the sport for a few months now and having some of the progress and seeing some of the results I am now,” he said.

Alex realized his potential in rowing when he was invited to try out for the U.S. Under-23 team as a junior at Cornell. He made the team in his second tryout as a senior and competed in the 2013 World Championships in Trakai, Lithuania.

A short time after graduation, Alex tried out for a spot at the U.S. Rowing training center in Princeton, N.J., and found himself on a journey that led him to Olympic training facilities in Colorado, Oklahoma and California.

“I’m training year to year to sort of make the team because every year there is a senior national team,” he said. “If it gets me to the Olympics in 2016 in Rio that would fantastic, but I’m taking it year by year for sure.”

The brothers may not see one another as frequently, but they’re always sure to gloat when given the chance.

They interact regularly, texting each other the results of their workouts and letting the other know when they’ve reached a personal best in any physical activity, such as running or weight-lifting.

However, no longer is it just to irritate each other, now it’s to keep each other motivated and push one another in hopes that they can reunite again in Rio.

“It’s definitely one of those things where (the bond) has gotten stronger over the years, and now that we’re pretending to be adults, we see what the goals are and what it’s going take to attain them,” Nick said.

They both recognize how difficult achieving that goal will be. They both train, work out and practice multiple times a day, up to six days a week with a common understanding that a spot in the Olympics is not guaranteed.

Nick said his chances of making it are about 50-50, while Alex is hoping to be one of 12 rowers selected from a group of about 20.

But as self-proclaimed best friends, their efforts and accomplishments only inspire one another to make those dreams possible.

“Certainly without his example … I don’t think I’d be where I am today,” Alex said.

“Even though he’s my younger brother I’ve always looked up to him,” Nick said.

And while both are equally ambitious to make the highest level of competition, to have at least one Karwoski in the Olympics would be deemed a success.

“One way or another there’s going to be hopefully a big family event down at the Olympics,” Ted said. “Hopefully to see both of them, but certainly hoping to see at least one. They’re both pretty driven guys, so who knows, if it’s not 2016 maybe it’ll be 2020.”