Matthew Segal (front, facing the camera) and his teammates at the Royal Henley Regatta in England. (photo from Matthew Segal)
Matthew Segal was an all-round athlete until the age of 15, when he found his one true love: rowing. He fell in love with the sport while he was a student at St. George’s School in Vancouver and followed it to Yale, where he rowed for the university’s lightweight varsity rowing team. In recent months, Segal, 22, the grandson of Vancouver icon Joe Segal, returned to Vancouver after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in economics from Yale. His most memorable times at school were spent rowing, specifically in the boat’s coveted position of stroke seat.
“Coaches look for a rower’s rhythm, length and the reliability of their endurance when they select the stroke seat,” Matthew explained to the Independent. “It was an honor to fill that role but I think the stroke takes too much of the credit. The success we had is attributable to every single guy on the boat.”
Segal’s father, real estate developer Lorne Segal, said he believes his son has been the only Jewish stroke of the Yale Varsity boat since intercollegiate sport began in the United States. While rowing began at Yale before 1852 and was the first collegiate sport, Lorne Segal said, “The first U.S. intercollegiate sport was a rowing race between Harvard and Yale in 1852; prior to that, Yale would simply race internally. So, the entire intercollegiate sport system started in the U.S. with the Harvard-Yale race, which has become one of the most famous annual races.”
Segal’s team had an undefeated regular season in 2016 before it went on to compete in the Eastern Sprints, a race against rowing teams of the top 18 schools in the United States. When they won the Eastern Sprints, they were invited to race in the prestigious Royal Henley Regatta in England, where they competed against 72 boats and were the only lightweight team to make it to the semifinal.
Lorne and Mélita Segal traveled to England to see their son compete. “They were racing the Cornell heavyweights who were, on average, 35 pounds heavier. It was a real David and Goliath battle!” said the proud father.
As he reflected on his final season on the rowing team, Segal said it was “one of the best seasons Yale ever had.” No stranger to winning, Segal also set two world records during the winter season, when he and his team were training indoors on ergometers: in the lightweight category for the 500-metre distance and for a one-minute test.
Now back at home and focusing on his career, Segal’s body is adjusting after being used to a rigorous schedule that saw him training 11 times a week. “I have different priorities right now but I’ll always hold rowing close to my heart,” he said.
These days, his attention is keenly focused on a series of mobile apps he’s developing with his company, Lipsi Software Development Inc.
Lipsi is an anonymous messaging app geared at high school and college-age kids that facilitates interactions that might not otherwise occur. “It’s supposed to be a fun platform for approaching people under the veneer of anonymity,” he explained. Another project is a gift-giving app that facilitates random acts of kindness by allowing givers to send recipients a small gift via text message.
In both of these endeavors, Segal is the mastermind behind the ideas, concepts, app layouts and legalities, but he has outsourced the technical component to programmers he describes as “some of the most brilliant people I know.”
Coming from a family such as his, you might think Segal is under extraordinary pressure to succeed.
“It’s always lurking in the back of my head that I need to try and live up to my dad and grandfather’s achievements,” he admitted. “In my life, I’ve tried to focus on the things that have meant the most to me, pursuing them to the highest level possible. And my parents have always been very supportive with regard to anything I’ve pursued. They’ve never told me I need to follow a certain career path, they’ve just told me to do what I do, and do it well. I think that’s the best approach in life.”
Lauren Kramer, an award-winning writer and editor, lives in Richmond. To read her work online, visit laurenkramer.net.