Browns share rivalry, revelry OLYMPIC FESTIVAL


BOULDER, Colo. -- Amy and Becky Brown have come a long way from the weekend outings and summer vacations that helped fuel their passion: whitewater kayaking.

But first, light years before they arrived here for the U.S. Olympic Festival, back when they were growing up in Monkton, came the family thing.

"All of their lives we've been throwing them in boats," their mother, Barbara Brown, said recently.

Then came the sister thing.

"At first I wanted to do it because Becky was," said Amy Brown, 18. "But then I started to enjoy it."

Is the rivalry thing far behind?

"I think it's great, fantastic," Becky Brown, 22, said of her younger sister's recent surge in the national rankings.

Mrs. Brown's daughters were on different teams when the whitewater competition began yesterday on the Boulder River, but nonetheless were rooting for their own: Team Brown.

Blood is thicker than whitewater.

"I'd like us both to do well," said Amy, 18, who recently graduated as the valedictorian of her senior class at Hereford High School.

The rivalry, not to mention the relationship, has been tested mightily in the past year as Amy moves up and threatens to move ahead of Becky in the national rankings for their classification (K1W). But you have to strain to find any strain.

Amy is ranked 10th in the "B" division, and Becky, whose training suffered as she finished her undergraduate requirements at George Washington University, is holding at sixth.

But based on her performance in the U.S. team trials on the Ocoee River in Tennessee in May, Amy spent the past two months in Europe training with the Olympic "A" development team; Becky was back in the United States, relegated to the "B" team.

"She's not exactly happy about it," said Amy, who will be a freshman at American University in the fall. "But we don't want to kill each other. We don't have an intense rivalry, but it's there."

Said Becky, who was Phi Beta Kappa and graduated magna cum laude from GW: "I'm looking forward to next year when we can train together."

Truth is, Becky Brown is looking forward to not having to juggle such a heavy academic load with training.

"That was pretty tough," she said a few weeks after graduation. "I think I would have trained better if I didn't have school. It takes a lot of focus and concentration."

As for her not making the developmental "A" team, the trials for which were held within a couple days after her final exams, Becky Brown said, "I kind of expected it. It doesn't hurt me, except in my ranking."

It's something Amy will have to get accustomed to. Then again, she won't have to make the 70- to 90-minute commute to train, either on the Potomac or on the manufactured whitewater course at the Pepco facility in Dickerson, Md.

The younger of the Brown sisters -- they also have an older brother, Jonathan, who competed for a while but has since gone back to more recreational paddling -- made a significant jump in the national rankings during the past year.

"Since last fall, she put in the time to make the jump to the elite level," said Jim Stewart, coach for the Bethesda Center of Excellence development team. "She's now getting the rewards out of it."

The ultimate reward would be making the U.S. Olympic team. Though a long shot for next summer's games in Atlanta, the Browns would have a more realistic chance of making it to Australia in 2000. Amy is sure she'll still be competing, but Becky doesn't seem too optimistic.

That many of the top women in the sport are in their late 20s and early 30s gives both of the Browns some hope should they continue. The U.S. Olympic Committee recently announced a program that will pull former Olympic athletes in other sports into kayaking.

"We need to get more women involved," said Amy. "It will make the competition even better."

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