Matt Miller won’t be defined by being an Olympian. Part of the reason he enrolled at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business this fall was to pursue big goals in life, including in the field of data science.
But the start of his two years at Darden was certainly defined by the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where he was busy competing for Team USA in the men’s four rowing competition while his fellow first-year graduate students were arriving in Charlottesville for the start of classes.
Miller even filmed a short introduction video on his smart phone from the athlete’s village in Rio, which was shown during an introduction session for Darden students.
Although he missed much of the first week of activities for incoming students, Miller still made it back in time for his first class, and he said settling in was made easy, thanks to the amazing job his wife did getting their new apartment ready.
Before arriving on Grounds, Miller’s four-man boat rowed through their event heats and into the semifinals, only to suffer a disappointing result as the team failed to qualify for the gold-medal race amid a week of terrible rowing conditions. Unbowed, the team rowed to victory in the B final on Aug. 12, officially finishing in seventh place overall, even though their time would have been good enough for silver in the A final race held later that same morning.
Staying in Rio through the closing ceremony, Miller even made time after his event to catch up on the heavy load of advance case study reading before returning to Charlottesville just in time for the start of classes.
Miller started his rowing career in high school before joining the men’s club rowing team at UVA as an undergraduate, where he earned a degree in systems engineering in 2011. After UVA, he worked in the Washington, D.C. area while training with the Potomac Boat Club and ultimately making the U.S. national team.
Throughout his career, his competitive nature and discipline have driven his success, Miller said, but he often enjoys the serenity of training as much as the actual races.
“Much of the training for rowing is working on your aerobic base, so those rows can be amazingly fun out on the water with great conditions,” he said. “When you start, you can see the stars and when you’re on the dock afterward, the sun is up and there might be hot air balloons in the sky.”
But as big a part as rowing and the Olympics have had in Miller’s life, he expects much more from himself in the future in new areas.
“As I look back on the Olympic experience, I’m going to view it as a unique experience, a fun time and a unique challenge,” Miller said. “I hope to do great things in my life and not be defined as an Olympian, but be more broadly successful and be defined as a friend to people.”