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ATHLETE OF THE MONTH: Matthieu Bigga-Brecheteau

By Kiran Subramanian l July 22, 2021

Matthieu (Matt) Bigga-Brecheteau began his rowing based on a suggestion from his mother, who “had a friend who rowed on the Italian national team.” “I figured I would give it a try,” says Bigga-Brecheteau, who now rows with the Princeton National Rowing Association/Mercer, where he usually rows “in the 3-seat in the mens eight, which is the power house of the boat.”

Matt Bigga-Brecheteau, a recent graduate of Montgomery High School, (left) with George Drago of Notre Dame High School rowing on Mercer Lake in West Windsor.

Generally, the boat is set up so there is stroke pair in the stern (back) of the boat, the middle four, or the power house, and the bow pair. Stern pair focuses on setting a rhythm, middle four are generally the strongest guys in the boat, and the bow pair have a focus on the balance and set of the boat, not that anyone is not focused on pulling and moving the boat, Bigga-Brecheteau says.

The prep for a rowing match is almost as important as the race itself. Bigga-Brecheteau explains that one of the hardest parts of rowing is “...pushing yourself during the workouts.” “Rowing centers on shorter distances, and has very low cadences compared to other sports,” he says, noting that running is upwards of 150 rotations per minute(rpm), cycling is 80-120 rpm, and rowing is 20-40 strokes per minute. “So the legs really start to burn as you move down the course.”

Furthermore, Bigga-Brecheteau says one of the biggest misconceptions about rowing is that: “A lot of people think rowing is big on the arms, that you pull with your arms like a rowboat or kayak,” he says. “However, the power in the rowing stroke actually comes mostly from the legs, with the back being a runner up, and the arms really only finishing up the stroke and adding some length. The legs are a lot stronger than your arms, but a lot of people think rowing is an arms sport.”

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Bigga-Brecheteau says this is one of the best parts about rowing, in that: “Being in the pain cave with your teammates is awful, but is fun in a way.” His favorite quote for rowing is: “It doesn’t need to be fun to be fun.” “I think is very resemblant of how it is,” Bigga-Brecheteau says. “It’s a lot of looking back at what you just did and appreciating the team effort in each piece of the race that I really love.”

For those who are interested in rowing, he has the following advice: “When you start you will probably think it is the worst thing in the world and will want to quit,” he says. “I highly recommend you keep going. It pays off large dividends, and you will feel great about the work that you are doing and have done.” Bigga-Brecheteau will attend Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana in September.

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