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WNY Olympic diary: Emily Regan's gold was years in the making

The Buffalo News is publishing Rio diaries from some of the Western New York families who have competitors at the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Larry Regan is the father of rower Emily Regan.

By Larry Regan

The Regan family Rio journey ends tomorrow when we arrive at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport. Memories of a lifetime have been created, something our family will cherish forever.

With each successive photograph of Emily since she was named to the Olympic team June 20th we saw joy radiating from deep inside that burst forth with a radiant and beautiful smile. As parents, siblings and relatives we were brought the kind of happiness everyone deserves to enjoy and celebrate. We are extremely fortunate to experience such a journey. We would be remiss if our heartfelt and deep gratitude was not extended to each and everyone who lent a kind word, support, encouragement or a prayer or two. Every little bit was very much needed and appreciated. Thank you everyone.

Emily began her journey when she was born 28 years ago. Barb and I strove to be the best parents we could be, regrettably failing oftentimes. Despite our shortcomings we always wanted to provide our children every opportunity we possibly could, including education, arts and athletics.

Larry Regan, father of Olympic rower,Emily is pictured outside his WIlliamsville< NY home on Monday, Aug. 1, 2016. (Harry Scull Jr./Buffalo News)

It was up to our children to make the most of each and every opportunity that came their way. We preached to them there was a direct correlation between the amount of effort and dedication put into an activity and the success and rewards they would enjoy. There would certainly be failure and bumps along the way, but so long as they could look in the mirror and say they gave every ounce of effort  then they could be satisfied even with defeat.

Emily is a determined young woman, a trait evident from her early days. As an example, she was bound and determined to have Mom and Dad buy her a two-wheel bicycle when she was four. Mom and Dad, however had other ideas. We insisted that her older sister Kelly be able to ride her two-wheeler first. So Emily went out and taught her sister to ride by running alongside. Success achieved, Emily sprinted inside our home screaming at the top of her lungs, "Hey somebody! Hey somebody!" She easily got Mom and Dad's attention. Emily had her two-wheeler shortly thereafter.

Emily's doggedness has served her well. Without it, she never would have enjoyed success in swimming, cross-country and rowing.

Emily has overcome numerous disappointments and injuries in her Olympic journey. She experienced the agony of not making the Olympic team in 2012. Then in 2013, she suffered a shoulder injury while running through a Princeton, N.J., park as she stumbled on an uneven sidewalk falling forward and striking her shoulder on the ground. She was unable to row for six weeks. Not to be deterred, she came back and earned a spot in the Women's 8+ by seat racing her way into the boat. The boat went on to set a world record at World Cup 2 in Lucerne, Switzerland. She thereafter rowed to a world championship with her teammates later that summer.

BLED, SLOVENIA - SEPTEMBER 03: Sarah Zelenka, Kara Kohler, Emily Regan and Sara Hendershot of the USA celebrate after winning the Women's Four final during day seven of the FISA Rowing World Championships at Lake Bled on September 3, 2011 in Bled, Slovenia. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

Sarah Zelenka, Kara Kohler, Emily Regan and Sara Hendershot of the USA celebrate after winning the Women's Four final during day seven of the FISA Rowing World Championships at Lake Bled on Sept. 3, 2011 in Bled, Slovenia. (Getty Images)

Then 2014 brought a raft of obstacles. Emily came down with a serious case of bronchitis after returning to Princeton from winter training in Chula Vista, Calif. She was out of action for two weeks. Several weeks later she was diagnosed with exercise-induced asthma. Several weeks later brought severe muscle spasms in her back. She was out of action again. She managed to get back on the water only to become very ill during the team's two-week training trip to Dartmouth University in early July. It took a week, but with the kind assistance of her host family in Vermont and a doctor she recovered and was able to train the second week.

Emily missed selection for one of the Olympic boats for the 2014 World Rowing Championships in Amsterdam due to her successive challenges. She was relegated to seat race for the last spot in the women's 4- shell. She beat a former Olympian to earn the last available spot despite these many challenges. She was happy to put the 2014 rowing season in her rear-view mirror.

After that, 2015 was a splendid year. She was injury-free and sailed into a spot in the women's 8+ shell that would go win a gold medal at World Cup 2 and the World Championship in Varese, Italy, and Aiguebelette, France, respectively.

LUCERNE, SWITZERLAND - JULY 14: Amanda Polk, Simonds Kerry, Emily Regan, Lauren Schemetterling, Grace Luczak, Caroline Lind, Victoria Opitz, Heidi Robbins, Katelin Snyder of the USA team win the gold medal in the Women's Eight during Day 3 of the 2013 Samsung World Rowing Cup III on Lucerne Rotsee on July 14, 2013 in Lucerne, Switzerland. (Photo by Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images)

Amanda Polk, Simonds Kerry, Emily Regan, Lauren Schemetterling, Grace Luczak, Caroline Lind, Victoria Opitz, Heidi Robbins, Katelin Snyder of the USA team win the gold medal in the Women's Eight during Day Three of the 2013 Samsung World Rowing Cup III on Lucerne Rotsee on July 14, 2013 in Lucerne, Switzerland. (Getty Images)

This year was not without its challenges. Emily suffered significant back spasms shortly before racing to determine which two women would earn the first two spots on the Olympic team in the women's 2- shell. She bounced back quickly and was able to race. Being an Olympic year the intensity of competition ramped up significantly from the already high level that defines the culture of Tom Terhaar's rowing program. As we now know, Emily was successful and earned her way to an Olympic spot, which led to rowing gold.

Life has many setbacks. As Emily's story illustrates, great things can be achieved with determination, hard work, perseverance and a willingness to fall short from time to time. We hope her story inspires others to believe anything is possible and successes beyond one's wildest dreams can and do come true.

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