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The Bradsher Beat
Friday, August 8, 2008

By Bethany Bradsher

Siblings set high bar for Kupets

By Bethany Bradsher
All rights reserved.

Chris Kupets will enjoy viewing the Olympics on television, first from his family home in Athens, GA, and later from his new collegiate home at East Carolina.

But don’t fault Kupets too much if you happen to be watching an event with him and he says something starting with the words, “When I was in Athens…”

When your last Summer Olympic experience was live attendance capped by watching your sister win two medals, comparisons are inevitable.

This summer Kupets is preparing for his biggest athletic challenge to date – living up to the expectations the Pirate coaching squad put on him when they recruited him as the new backup point guard.

In 2004, Kupets' sister Courtney stood on her own biggest threshold, after an injury that could have ended her gymnastics dreams. In the end, she made her mark on the world’s biggest stage.

Less than a year after tearing her Achilles tendon, Courtney Kupets was the top qualifier at the U.S. Olympic Trials. A two-time national champion (in 2003 and 2004), Kupets competed in the all-around team competition and the individual bars and floor events.

Competing with a hip injury that was later discovered to be a stress fracture, she still took a silver medal in the team event and an individual bronze in the bars.

“The first day we got to see my sister in the opening ceremonies,” Kupets said. “It was crazy. It was just amazing. We were actually there watching the Olympics and she was in it.”

Even though Chris, his parents, his older sister Ashley and his older brother Mark celebrated when Courtney qualified for the Games, they didn’t think that finances would allow the whole family to make the trip from their Athens to the Greek Athens. But their community and Courtney’s gym rallied to raise money for their trip, increasing Courtney’s cheering section and creating a memorable family vacation.

A quick YouTube search even yields an Olympic “fluff piece” of a 14-year-old Chris and his family shopping, eating at Greek sidewalk cafes and shouting during Courtney’s competitions. The piece talks about how Courtney’s coaches kept her isolated from the outside, so they had little contact with her until all of her events were over.

As inspirational as Courtney’s gymnastics career has been so far (she is heading into her senior season on the University of Georgia team), her accomplishments would only fill a portion of the family scrapbook.

Mark ran track for Penn and is now enrolled at Georgetown Law School, and Ashley just ended her career at Georgia with five All-American selections.

“All of my brothers and sisters inspire me,” Chris Kupets said.

Kupets is taking a breather at home after spending the summer in Greenville with the basketball team. He took two summer classes and dove into the team’s strength and conditioning program.

It was a structured summer that, along with his year of prep school at The Patterson School in Lenoir, helped prepare him for the more intense demands ahead.

“I feel like I got more mature, stronger, more ready to play,” said Kupets, who is expected to play behind sophomore Brock Young at the point.

Kupets was ready to sign with Houston when ECU assistant Darryl LeBarrie convinced him to visit the campus. He came away from that visit impressed with the team’s vision for the future and convinced that he could contend for playing time from the word go.

And the icing on the cake, he said, was learning about the talent level of the remaining two-thirds of this year’s recruiting class. The acquisition of Chris Turner and Darrius Morrow showed that the Pirate coaches are serious about elevating the program and bringing in the personnel who can make wins happen.

“The campus was awesome and I liked everyone,” Turner said. “I think we have a chance to win.”

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08/08/2008 02:22:24 AM

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