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Kristine O'Brien wins gold for Team USA women's under-23 rowing team

Massapequa Park's Kristine O'Brien celebrates winning 2012 NCAA

Massapequa Park's Kristine O'Brien celebrates winning 2012 NCAA women's rowing championship at University of Virginia. Credit: UVA Sports' Matt Riley

Give rowing a try, they said. You might be able to get a college scholarship out of it, they said.

Sometimes they're right. In this case, listening to that advice paid off to the tune of two world championships.

Kristine O'Brien, a Massapequa Park native, captured a second gold medal last month at the World Championships in Austria as a member of Team USA's under-23 rowing team.

Her women's eight boat completed the course in 6 minutes, 16.81 seconds, three seconds ahead of Great Britain, to defend its title July 28. The U.S. men's lightweight sculls also won gold.

"Never in a million years did I think I could represent the country in anything," said O'Brien, 21, who also was a member of last year's championship squad. "I'm still amazed."

O'Brien can put the medals with the two NCAA titles she won at the University of Virginia, and the three first-team All-American plaques, and the 2012 Collegiate Rower of the Year award . . . if there's room.

"Before college, I couldn't have even imagined achieving such success in this sport," she said. "But once you get the first [championship], it's like, 'We're not going to not win this again.' "

To think she was focused on volleyball and hadn't rowed -- not even recreationally -- until her freshman year at St. John the Baptist High School. It was then that her parents, Stephen and Kathleen, urged her to try a new sport and join the school's rowing club.

She excelled, earning a scholarship to UVA, from which she graduated this spring.

"I played a lot of sports growing up, but in rowing I found my niche," said O'Brien, who goes through a grueling, seven-day training regimen. "It's tough, but it's something I grew to love and I'm good at."

Good enough to have Olympic aspirations. She will try out in September for the senior national team.

New York Sports