A New Haven company’s products are being put to the test at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Vespoli USA builds racing shells for rowing teams and Olympians have competed in them dating back to the 1984 summer games in Los Angeles.
"We had bronze medal in ’88, silver medal in ’92," Vespoli USA President Mike Vespoli said. "Greatest moment in Olympic glory is when Great Britain won the eight, Australia got the silver medal, in the men’s eight in Sydney Australia in year 2000."
While they’re made in New Haven, this year another country is racing in Vespoli shells.
"The irony of it is our Canadian brothers from the north are racing in our shell," Vespoli said. "The US are rowing in a German made boat."
While Vespoli wants Team USA to succeed. "For commercial reasons I’m certainly rooting for the Canadians," he said.
Vespoli and his team of more than 40 employees took a break Monday afternoon to watch the men’s four Canadian team narrowly beat the Americans in a qualifying race.
"You feel the nerves, did I do it right," Vespoli said about watching his company’s boats in competition. "Is it perfect? Because these guys train their whole lives for this moment and the equipment is an integral part of their success, we can’t let them down, so I feel it. I know my people feel it every time we see our boat on the water."
Vespoli also knows the nerves the athletes are feeling, as well as their dedication and determination, because he represented the United States in Munich at the 1972 Olympics.
"The biggest thrill you get is walking into the stadium of the Opening Ceremony," he said. "That’s when it really hits you full force. You train, you aspire to make the team, you make the team, but you’ve made the team, you’re wearing the USA colors, you’re marching into the stadium, it’s a pretty special moment."
With the U.S. Rowing Junior National team competing in Vespoli’s shells, Mike said he hopes as those athletes get older maybe Team USA will again race in his boats at another Olympics.