Stamford attorney John J. LaCava is like a lot of dads, always willing to make time to attend their children’s sporting events and cheer them on.
Next month, LaCava will support his son Nick on the world’s largest sporting stage—the Olympics in London.
Nick is a member of the United States’ four-man lightweight rowing team that qualified for the Olympics in late May after defeating a talented Dutch team during a competition in Switzerland. “I’m just really happy for him,” LaCava said. “He set his mind on a goal and worked hard and accomplished that goal. It’s such an achievement just to get there.”
Nick began rowing in eighth grade at a private club in Westport, encouraged by his mother, Zizi, who is an active rower. He continued through high school and then rowed at Columbia University where he served as captain of the lightweight crew his senior year in 2009.
In the Olympics, the lightweight classification means that no rower can weigh more than 160 pounds. Nick’s teammates are accomplished rowers from Harvard, Dartmouth and Princeton. “All of those guys are lean and mean,” LaCava said, noting that his son found his athletic niche when he picked up rowing. “He loves it and has really followed through with it,” LaCava said. “Rowing is about physical conditioning and the strategy of racing. It’s a culture, too. Rowers are very intense and love the sport.”
LaCava and Zizi have attended most of his races since high school. They were in Lucerne, Switzerland, in May to see their son qualify for the Olympics.
They also support Nick financially as he has chased his Olympic dreams. His rowing times continually improved to the point that he was one of the fastest rowers in the country in the lightweight class. That led to his joining the U.S. national team.
“He’s three years out of college and a lot of people would say it’s time to get a job,” LaCava said. “We have supported [his racing career] by supporting him in every way we can so he can do this.”
Giving Up Chocolate
For a time, Nick was balancing a job while training in New Jersey shortly after he graduated from Columbia. He and two Columbia graduates started a company called Chocomize, which sells custom-made, personalized chocolate bars. Nick would put in his training time in Princeton, N.J., and then drive 40 miles to the company’s manufacturing facility in Cherry Hill.
But he was forced to make a choice between his Olympic dreams and entrepreneurial efforts when the U.S. Rowing Association closed its Princeton facilities and asked Nick to start training in Oklahoma City. “He didn’t really think about it too long,” LaCava said. “He knew what he wanted to do.”
Nick left the Chocomize partnership and put all of his efforts into training.
“No matter what event you’re talking about in the Olympics, it is a struggle for athletes to get there. Your focus has to be on that and that alone,” LaCava said. “Olympic athletes all have to give up something to make it this far.”
In the last few weeks before the Olympics, LaCava said his son’s team is working on their timing as a group, which is vital to competing. The team has been together only since April, compared to some of their European counterparts who have been rowing together for as much as a year.
Nick will leave for London in mid-July to prepare for their race on July 28. LaCava and a group of 20 friends and family members will fly to London the week of the event. “We’ve been to Poland, Slovenia and Lucerne to cheer on Nick, but being in London and watching him row will be like nothing we’ve ever dreamed of,” LaCava said. “To see this work out for him is really gratifying.” •