Justin Best, a UHS graduate, earns spot on the U. S. Olympic Rowing Team06/28/2021 02:22PM ● By Steven Hoffman
In 2015, when Justin Best was still a senior at Unionville High School, he was asked to envision what he could be doing ten years after his graduation. His response, which was included in the school’s yearbook, was that he would be training for a spot on U.S. Rowing Team for the 2028 Olympics.
Justin found out earlier this month that he is reaching the lofty goal a little earlier than he had hoped. He will be part of the Men’s Eight+ team that represents the United States at the upcoming Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. The Olympic Games will begin on July 23 and run through Aug. 9. Rowing events are tentatively scheduled for the morning of July 23.
Justin called the opportunity to compete and represent his country in the Olympics “pretty special.”
“I’m really proud to be an American and I hope I can perform my best on the highest stage,” Justin said.
He grew up participating in a number of different sports—football, lacrosse, and track events. But a concussion while playing football prompted him to look for a new sport. At around that same time, his parents, Glenn and Jeanne Best, watched “The Social Network.” In the movie, the Winklevoss twins, who helped co-found an early social networking site while at Harvard, competed on the school's rowing team. His parents thought Justin might enjoy the sport and they signed him up for a rowing summer camp the next day.
Susan Smith, a family friend who lived nearby, recommended the Newport Rowing Club and soon Justin was regularly training for the new sport in the highly regarded rowing program based in Newport, Delaware. That’s where he trained and competed during his freshman and sophomore years in high school.
Then Justin was a part of a group that petitioned the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District to add a rowing club team, and that effort resulted in his being able to compete for the Unionville Rowing Club for his junior and senior years in high school.
“That experience was really positive,” Justin said. “I got to row with my brother [Garren} and made some great high school friends.”
He also enjoyed a great deal of success in rowing. He was part of a team that won the varsity eight at the 2017 Dad Vail Regatta. He finished eighth in the single sculls at the 2015 USRowing Youth National Championships and finished eighth in the lightweight four at the 2013 USRowing Youth National Championships.
He was also part of a team that placed second in the eight at the 2019 World Rowing Under 23 Championships and also finished seventh in the eight at the 2019 World Rowing Cup III. His team won gold in the eight at the 2018 World Rowing Under 23 Championships and finished fourth in the eight at the 2018 World Rowing Cup III. He also won gold in the under 23 eight at the 2017 Canadian Henley and won silver in the eight at the 2015 World Rowing Junior Championships.
After graduating from Unionville High School, Justin went to Drexel University, where he continued to compete in rowing while he earned his degree.
Justin said that rowing has presented him with many good opportunities and positive experiences, including the chance to travel extensively for competitions. He mentioned Nova Scotia, Rio de Janeiro, Italy, England, and Poland as a few of the places where he enjoyed competing.
As he worked his way up the ranks, Justin earned a spot on four national teams. He was on the Junior Team in 2015, the Under 23 squad in both 2018 and 2019, and the Olympic team in the 2020 Olympics which were, of course, delayed to 2021 because of the global pandemic.
Justin said that the delay was very disappointing, but he used it as an opportunity to train even harder. The delay might have actually helped him earn a spot on the Olympic rowing team because the additional time gave him a chance to improve and earn a spot on the highly competitive squad.
The United States has won 12 gold medals in men’s eight rowing dating back to 1900, but the team hasn’t won gold since 2004, and the last time the squad medaled in the Olympics was in 2008.
Justin said that the Dutch, the Germans, and the British, are all expected to be highly competitive in this Olympic Games, and he is looking forward to the challenge of competing with and against the world’s best.
The United States team includes Austin Hack, who returns to the Olympic Games in men’s eight, the only returning member of the team that finished just off the podium in fourth in Rio in 2016, and Best, Liam Corrigan, Ben Davison, Conor Harrity, Nick Mead, Alex Miklasevich, Alexander Richards and Julian Venonsky.
Glenn Best expressed his gratitude for everyone who helped his son along the way to the Olympics. “The family is excited and proud of Justin’s accomplishments in the sport of rowing,” he said. “Many individuals have helped shape his Olympic pursuit, and we are thankful for the support from coaches, clubs, athletes and rowing advocates along the way.”
Glenn Best added that he can’t wait to watch the U.S. Olympic rowing team compete. “Rowing in an 8+ is truly a team effort by turning synchronized motion into power and results,” he said. “Although no foreign spectators are allowed at the Games, Chester County will be cheering several favorite sons onto victory in Tokyo.”
Justin will only be turning 24 this summer, which means that he could have the opportunity to compete in the 2024 and 2028 Olympic Games as well.Justin said that he hopes to be an inspiration for young people who take up the sport of rowing, and he would also like to boost the visibility of the sport in the United States.
“Rowing is a sport that can unlock so many doors,” Justin said. “All the elite colleges have rowing programs. It can really open up a lot of opportunities.”