Missy Schwen Ryan sits in the stroke seat of the 1993 Dad Vail Regatta Champion.
Dec. 4, 2009
WASHINGTON - Throughout her life former Georgetown University rower and two-time Olympic Medalist Missy Schwen Ryan (C'94) has been described in many words; exceptional, tough, selfless, competitor, special and leader to name a few. She can now add Hall of Famer to the list.
In October, the National Rowing Hall of Fame unveiled its 18 inductees for 2010 at the Head of the Charles Regatta in Boston, Mass. Schwen Ryan along with her Olympic teammate Karen Kraft Rigsby were among those who will be inducted on March 20, 2010 at the National Rowing Hall of Fame at the Mystic Seaport in Connecticut.
"Missy was the kind of athlete that every coach hopes to have," said current Wisconsin Rowing Coach and Schwen-Ryan's coach at Georgetown Bebe Bryans. "She was fiercely competitive and hated to lose, but was also a gracious competitor and a great team captain."
The Bloomington, Ind. native is best known for her Olympic success and story of perseverance. During the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics, Schwen and Kraft earned a silver medal finishing .39 seconds behind the Australian pair. A month after the games, she donated a kidney to her older brother, Michael. The saving of her brother's life would not spell the end of her racing career. Schwen and Kraft returned to the 2000 Sydney Summer Olympics, earning a bronze medal in the women's coxless pairs.
Prior to her international success, Missy Schwen was creating a name for herself at the Thompson Boat House, as a member of the Georgetown women's rowing team.
"Missy wasn't your typical rowing athlete physically," Bryans said. "We said she was 5'9, but she was actually about 5-7. She wasn't the most natural stroke, but she was so tough that she would drag the boat down the course by herself if she had to."
During Missy's junior season of 1993, Bryan's first as a coach on the Hilltop, she stroked the Hoyas varsity eight to a victory in the Dad Vail Regatta. For the members of the boat, it was the first time any had ever been in a final, but they were able to win comfortably.
Missy was a catalyst for one of the strongest two-year periods in Georgetown rowing history. In addition to winning gold at the Dad Vail Regatta in '93, she was a part of the openweight eight that won the GU Invitational in 1994.
"Missy was a really special person and set a wonderful example for her teammates to follow," Georgetown Crew Head Coach Tony Johnson said. "She worked as hard as anybody and that's what made her so successful."
After a successful stint at Georgetown, Bryans convinced Missy and Georgetown teammate Kathy Simon to give National Team Try-outs a chance. The idea was to go to Philadelphia, enjoy themselves and see how they stacked up against the country's best competition. Schwen and Simon proved to be among the nation's best each walking away with spots on the National Team, set to compete at the 1994 World Championships.
Two Olympic medals later and Missy Schwen Ryan's spot in the National Rowing Hall of Fame was all but sealed.