Olympic Final: Last One, Fast One! posted by: Esther Lofgren (August 1, 2012)
Racing the heat
First off--thank you for the tremendous support! We had our first race Sunday and the outpouring of good luck and go get 'ems that you sent to me and the women in the 8+ were so wonderful. It was awesome to go to the line knowing how many people we have pulling with us!
Our race was a good starting point for us--our first race together in this lineup. Some good things and lots to improve on. We lined up against Germany, Great Britain, and Australia at 11:50am, just after some brewing thunderclouds had us wondering if racing would be delayed. We were called into the blocks pretty early, so there was a lot of time to sit there, get acclimated to the noise of the camera overhead, the 20 or so photographers on the dock, the spectators shouting, and the huge buoys that mark the starting line and the boot. The boot is a huge plastic guard that keeps the bow aligned as the boats sit ready; when the starting beep sounds, there's a huge WHOOSH as the boots drop into the water and the boats surge off the line.
We had a solid start and were able to get out of the blocks and into our rhythm. The cheering of the fans on the shore built as we went--especially cheering for the home town boat in our heat! We were very internal and focused on executing our race plan. The conditions seem to be craziest in the middle thousand, but everyone in our event handled them well. As we reached the last 500, the grandstands surrounded us, lessening the wind a bit but also enclosing us with the thunder of thousands and thousands of spectators. It was literally deafening and so awesome!!!
Today, we watched the first round of USA crews line up and race for Olympic gold. Our women's quad pulled out an awesome bronze finish, the first time the USA has medaled in the event since 1984! I'm so stoked for these women--the rockstars we train with every day--Adrienne "Hammer" Martelli, Megan Kalmoe, Kara Kohler, and my roommate Natalie Dell!
Our women's pair had a heartbreaker of a fourth-place finish, just 0.2 seconds behind last year's World Champions New Zealand. Sarah Zelenka and Sara Hendershot have had an amazing year, building up to an incredible race that was literally stroke for stroke, surge for surge. Tough, gutsy, and so confident--we are so proud to have you representing the USA!
Similarly, our men's eight nearly caught Great Britain at the line, and finished just 0.3 seconds outside the medals. After earning the last spot here just two months ago, our guys performed so well, and did our country proud. Zach Vlahos, Brett Newlin, Jake Cornelius, Steve Kaspyrzyk, Giuseppe Lanzone, Will Miller, Ross James, Grant James, and David Banks, you are All-American all-stars.
Tomorrow, at 12:30, we'll line up against five other crews we've raced before: Australia, The Netherlands, Canada, Romania, and Great Britain. It's the Olympic final. But it's still 2,000m from start to finish, four 500m quarters to make the most of. I'm so excited to build off Team USA's momentum from today and leave everything I can possibly give out there on the water tomorrow.
It's been a long journey here, but now that we are about to race, I am thankful for every up and down along the way that has prepared me to give my best here in London. I know how much work (and good luck, too) went into being here, being the most physically, mentally, and technically prepared I've been in my career. I remember watching the Opening Ceremonies four years ago from a TV at my friend's house in Berkeley, excited to see what promised to be the most incredible Olympics yet, but so incredibly devastated at falling short of making it there.
The last four years have been a fight to be the best rower I can be, to push myself past what others and what I thought my limits were, to, if nothing else, make sure that I had used each day as best I could to never feel that feeling again. And I would never have been able to do those things without your support. The teammates who pushed me, trained with me, talked rowing with me, and who have become my best friends. The people who encouraged me, who believed in me, who helped me believe that the things I dreamed about weren't impossible. The people who housed me and fed me and who talked me through that tough practice or the ups and downs of selection or erg testing, even if you didn't know exactly what I was talking about.
So...thank you. Thank you so much for helping me get to the start line here in London, knowing that I am here in this boat with eight amazing women, that together we are ready to take on whomever we find ourselves lined up against. I am so proud to be representing my country, and I know that when we take that first stroke, we are each going to feel the hundreds of legs of everyone who has helped us get there pushing right with ours.
Thank you for giving us this opportunity. I am so excited to see what we can do with it tomorrow.
And Finally, the Finals posted by: Taylor Ritzel (July 31, 2012)
Racing in heat!
Today marks the start of the finals, when Olympic medals are won and lost. It’s amazing to think that this is it. You spend so much time training, traveling, preparing to race, racing in the heats or semis and thinking about what the final will be like. And then, before you know it, it’s time to line up against the best in the world. Not only is the final the most fun to race in, but it’s also the best to watch. So far there have been some really courageous and entertaining races, like the American W2X yesterday in the reps, wow! Today will surely be a good show. We have American boats in every A Final today, the Women’s Pair of Sarah Zelenka and Sara Hendershot, the Women’s Quad and the Men’s Eight. Our final, the Women’s 8+, isn’t until tomorrow afternoon, so for now more waiting and cheering on Team USA!
Whatever the outcome may be, it has been such an incredible experience so far. The sheer level of competition and professionalism shown in every event is something unique and a true first for me, a whole class above any World Championship. So, as our boat and others prepare for the last race of the Games, instead of feeling the weight of our own and others’ expectations, we plan to do what we’ve been waiting for, to simply race hard.
Thank you to everyone who has supported any athlete at any point along the way. I was talking with my teammate Erin Cafaro the other day, and while this journey can be considered selfish and at times very lonely, it is our support groups that help us get through difficulties and achieve our best when it counts. It definitely is a group effort through and through.
Wow! The last few days before racing flew by, and now we're already heading into Race Day #3! Thank you everyone for all the fast wishes sent to the US team. We are feeling very supported by everyone Stateside.
Until seeing the draw on Thursday, the most stressful part of the experience had been finding a seat on the bus. The 7am and 8am buses from the village to the course were very popular and very crowded. Yesterday morning, I was one of the last two people who would fit on Bus #3 to the course, and there were two seats left. But, Karsten (W1x) was saving the seat next to her for someone (who wasn't being allowed onto the bus). It took a few minutes of convincing by me and a Dutch rower also needing a seat that Karsten and her coach couldn't each have two seats to themselves. The organizers have solved the problem by making managers reserve seats in advance and checking off athletes from each country as we climb onto the bus.
Then I saw the draw and up til racing, that was the most stressful part of this experience. I am ready to race. I know that I have picked up speed in the last year, and I want to show that. All the same, seeing the draw gave my stomach a turn. It cemented the fact that I am here for a big, important race. Not to socialize with my friends and eat above-par dining hall food. There are 28 entries in the women's single. 13 from developed nations (qualified through 2011 Worlds or the Qualification Regatta) and 15 from developing nations (qualified through Asian, African or South American qualifiers). The race progression starts with 5 heats (3 of 6, 2 of 5). The top 4 rowers from each heat progress directly to the Quarterfinal on Tuesday. The remainder head to one of two reps, each with 4 rowers. The top 2 rowers from each rep join the Quarterfinals. There are four Quarterfinals (yes, that may seem self-explanatory but just in case...). Each with 6 rowers (full use of the lanes). Top 3 rowers from each Quarterfinal progress to the A/B semi-finals on Thursday. (The bottom 3 go to the C/D semis.) Then, on Thursday, the top 3 from each semi head to Final A while the bottom 3 go to Final B. The top 3 rowers in Final A medal.
Before racing, I practiced using the warm-up zone and the starting system. Dorney is unique in that it has a narrower lake (man-made) that runs parallel to the course and is connected by a few channels (with low bridges overhead). Usually, the warm up zone is either on the course (which means moving over into Lane 7 as races come down--lots of interruption) or a little bulge in the shape of the shoreline where there is room for a 750m long oval. It is a treat to have a separate warm-up lane. This way, if bigger boats are warming up/cooling down, the boats racing won't be hit by their wakes. And, it's longer than most warm-up zones (a full 1250m loop) so there is less spinning. I love it! The starting system here is using a new "boot" version. [The boot is a device that comes up from the bottom of the lake and clamps onto the bottom of your hull so that it's impossible to false start. There is also a plastic "U" to place your bow into so that you are exactly on the starting line and exactly pointed down the course.] They're taking care of some of my difficult tasks for me! No being off center at the start and needing to tap my bow around! The difference I notice in this boot system is that the plastic U lights up with some red lights when you touch the plastic (aka are all the way in).
Now on to a recap of racing: I faced Russia, Algeria, Belarus, and Mexico in my heat. The cast of characters:
--Levina (RUS) was one rower I needed to beat to qualify the single for London at Worlds 2011. She got off the line at a blazing speed, and I was in her wake wondering what had happened and trying to catch up. I didn't make it past her. This is her 4th Olympics.
--Karsten (BLR) is the most famous name in women's rowing currently (and maybe ever). She is fast. This is her sixth (yep, sixth--no one on the 2012 American team can claim that.) Olympics! Oh, and she has FIVE Olympic medals to her name (Gold in 1996 & 2000). She won Worlds in 2009 and has been on the podium at Worlds the past 2 years. I am sure she wants another gold.
--Rouba (ALG) has raced the light single internationally, and her best finish is 5th at a World Cup. I had never raced her before and don't know too much about her.
--Gonzalez (MEX) raced two World Cups this year and places 13th and 32nd, respectively.
Many of you watched or have seen the result: I was 3rd in my heat to Karsten of BLR (1st) and Levina of RUS (2nd). Top 4 advanced to the Quarterfinals, so all three of us move on to the next round. Plus MEX (4th).
It was an amazing experience to race down the Olympic course. We had gorgeous weather Saturday, and big crowds came out to cheer us on. The grandstands were packed, and impressively, there were many, many people lining the banks of the course from the 100m mark until where the grandstands began. I could hear the first shouts of the fans at 100m, and the noise didn't stop until after the finish. While on the shore before racing, I saw the crowd do the "wave" a few times. I feel lucky to compete on the Olympic stage in a country which very much loves the sport of rowing and is very, very excited to watch it.
I had a good race, not a great one. I executed a clean start, raced at a respectable rating, and followed my race plan. I had the fastest middle 1000m of my heat. It is impossible to know how much effort my competitors put into the race, but I was closer to Karsten that I ever have been in a heat, and the three of us were relatively packed together as far as heats go. Being closer is a good thing. Now I have to add the extra umph and extra efficiency to get even faster so that I can get past them. On the bus home, I was frustrated by finishing 3rd as I had hoped for 2nd.
One reason I may have been in a bad mood about my racing yesterday was that I was tagged by doping control. That's enough to make anyone grumpy. Immediately upon coming in after my warm-down, I was informed to make my way to the doping control building. I asked to grab my bag and to say hi to my Mom and sister (whom I hadn't seen yet). The woman reluctantly consented and said we could do it "on our way". [Adding to my grumpiness, I found out after sitting in doping control that athletes have one hour to report to the doping station after being informed of testing. The doping officers prefer to bring you straight there but if you insist, you can do your normal warm-down routine (flush, ice-bath, etc) while hydrating and waiting to pee.] Well, after racing on a decently hot day, I was not very hydrated. After two bottles of powerade, two bottles of water, and over an hour, I finally managed to pee. My saving grace the whole time is that the doping control station was televising the Olympic road race so I did have good entertainment while waiting for my bladder.
The US team did have some great performances yesterday and today. Notably, the W2- showed some real speed and hung with the Brits (silver at last year's Worlds) for the entire race. They placed 2nd and head straight to the A Final. The M8+ also had a great start to the regatta, winning their heat and advancing straight to the A Final. Today, the LM4- showed sharp and clean racing to lead their rep start to finish and head to Semifinal A/B. And, lastly, the W8+ displayed a very powerful, dominant performance winning by "a country mile" as the BBC announcers phrased it.
On the international level, the Kiwi (NZL) men's 2- (Murray and Bond) set a World Record by SIX seconds yesterday. That is absurd. It's unheard of. All said in a very good way! They are unquestionably (I think) the best men's pair ever in the history of rowing, and it is sooo fun to see them continue to go faster and faster. Plus, they're nice guys who always says "hello" when you run into them around the race course.
Now let's really backtrack...I can't skip some of the fun Olympic happenings from Friday! That evening we had a full rowing team photo. Now, all team photos have to be done in Nike gear. Ideally, in these sweet navy Nike zip-up sweatshirts with a red collar. But, we didn't know that when we were packing up our gear to send half home, and many people shipped those sweatshirts back to the States. The one Nike outfit we were all guaranteed to have: our podium outfit aka our space suits. These jackets are SUPER reflective. So reflective that if you take a photo with the flash, you can't see anything but the bright white of the jacket. (We also have sweet neon green and black sneakers and socks to go with them...and the socks say "Be brave" on one foot and "Do good" on the other.) Fortunately for our team photo, the day was bright enough that we didn't need a flash. And, it was really fun and incredible to group up with the entire rowing team for a photo. Made it truly feel like #oneteam #onegoal.
After the photo, we headed to dinner at the rowing village cafeteria. Much to our surprise, a marching band came to play! Starting out with the score from "Rocky"! All the rowers (from all the countries) headed to the patio next to the cafeteria to watch while eating dessert. They played well and choose some fun songs. And to up the celebration, during the songs, a kids' acting (?) troupe dressed as different species of birds starting wandering around the crowd. There were ducks, swans, storks, ravens, and these awesome dragonflies on bouncy shoes with ski goggles on their foreheads (they also had giant wings--about five foot spread) that were hitting the occasional head.
About 8pm, most of us rushed off. (Misguided into thinking that opening ceremonies began at 8:12pm because that's 20:12 and how cool would that be?!) A few American boats (M1x, W1x, M2-, W2x, LW2x, and two from the W8+) changed into our opening ceremonies outfits. Really, when are we going to get to wear the entire ensemble again? Gotta get into the spirit! Our team manager had reserved a room and organized a projector. We sat watching and enjoying the thrill of it for the first hour til our coaches sternly told us to head to bed. Of what I saw, I loved the James Bond/Queen skit, Mary Poppins floating in from the sky, the Mr. Bean appearance, Wiggins ringing the bell, and the singing of Jerusalem (one of Winsor's school songs...I still remember our 5th grade pantomime motions). Great moments in the performance.
Next race for me is Quarterfinal #2 6:50am EST on Tuesday July 31st. Keep thinking speedy thoughts!
As I'm sure anyone who's been checking results has noticed, the last 48 hours have had some ups and downs. Yesterday's race saw us out the back end early and unable to recover from the deficit. The middle race speed ("base pace") wasn't too far off, but was lacked the look and feel we usually go for. The ends of the race were slow in comparison to the rest of the field. Our final time was deceptively slow since we didn't push it through to the end when it became clear we wouldn't get one of the top two spots, but we were still in a bad situation, and would be racing the next morning in the reps.
Generally, being in the reps isn't something you want, to understate it. You're left fighting to stay alive, and have to make weight and race again while the rest of the field is resting. This isn't a huge handicap because we still have 48 hours between our rep and semi due to scheduling, but is still a consideration. On the other hand though, to put a positive spin on it, we as a boat are young and have very little experience racing in an Olympic environment. We executed well qualifying in Lucerne, but the pressure is different, the stakes are higher, and the competition much much more experienced and skilled. To put things in perspective, the stroke of the Danish four that secured the final semi bid from our heat won his first Olympic gold medal when I was 7 years old. So by rowing in the reps today, we will have twice as much experience, as a crew, going into our semi Tuesday afternoon.
We knew, meeting together last night, that if we raced the way we did Saturday in the rep our regatta would be over at about 9:46 AM on the second day of the Olympics. It couldn't be helped that someone's would be, and we had to be ready to "go blind with effort," as our coach put it, if we didn't want that to be us. As a crew we looked at how we wanted to perform, how we've performed in the past, and got ready to race. We knew it would not take an extraordinary effort from the crew that won in Lucerne to proceed from the reps, but we had to be that crew. And we were not ready to go home.
After this morning's race, we're back on track. We haven't arrived yet by any means, nor have we proved anything. But we're ready to line up on Tuesday against the best in the world and put everything towards achieving our first goal of making the grand final. The draw is out, so Tuesday at 12:40 it will be, from lane 1 to 6, USA, Netherlands, Switzerland, Great Britain, Germany, Czech Republic. We'll try to post tomorrow about what to expect. For now, it's time to rest, rehydrate and recover.
A 'Quick' Recap of the Opening Ceremonies posted by: Erik Dresser (July 28, 2012) Couldn't make it through the four and a half hour Opening Ceremonies? Here’s a quick recap of what you missed!
7:30 – We’re live watching the Opening Ceremonies from the west coast…the ceremonies aren’t live though….definitely on tape delay. Just the people are live.
7:35 – first rower sited….Sir Matthew Pinsent carrying the Olympic torch in Henley. The rowers are only about 15 references behind Michael Phelps in the first five minutes.
7:42 – Matt Lauer is in the British spirit, just dropped “queue” and “tele” in the same sentence.
7:43 – Looks like the ceremonies will be featuring sheep as there are quite a bit of livestock in the Olympic Stadium along with a thatched cottage. Hopefully my dog doesn’t notice the sheep or we’re not going to be able to listen to Bob Costas’ opening poetry. The Brits are going BIG tonight.
7:45 – Studio interview with some US gymnasts…they’re wearing their leotards with sweatpants…not awkward at all. Also, they’re asking the gymnasts what it was like to meet Michael Phelps and what they think of Justin Bieber.
7:48 – Some big questions for the night: Will Redgrave light the caldron and strike a blow for rowers everywhere? Who will be the worst dressed delegation? My bet is yes for Redgrave and the Ukraine based on what their rowing coaches were wearing at the course this past week.
7:52 – Theme for the show is “Isles of Wonder”, and it looks like they’re taking on us on a low flyby of the Thames, and jackpot! More rowers spotted in Henley with Temple Island and what looks like Abington School rowing with their pink/white oars. Winning the PE Cup two years in a row has its perks!
7:54 – Here comes Bradley Wiggins, winner of the Tour de France last week and he’s wearing…yellow! He just rang a bell that weighs 24 tons and leaves.
7:55 – looks like they’ve recreated the Shire from the Lord of the Rings and are playing cricket there. Can we get a Frodo sighting please?…nope, though we just got a shot of princes William and Harry.
8:03 – We’ve got a Scottish woman drumming who’s been deaf since adolescence. She feels the vibrations and she’s ushering in the start of the industrial revolution inside the Olympic Stadium. Pretty legit work by the drummer.
8:09 – Touching memorial for all fallen soldiers worldwide since the start of the industrial revolution which also “industrialized warfare”.
8:15 – They are bringing in some molten rings now that I hope are forming the Olympic Rings. That or they are spaceships about to attack London. They’re the rings…whew.
8:21 – We’ve got James Bond now and two corgi’s…and the Queen! Now they’re getting into a helicopter at the palace to ride to the Stadium but the corgi’s don’t get to ride. Please have Bond jump out of the chopper with the Queen! Yes! The Queen jumps out first over the stadium. What up James Bond!
8:40 – things we’ve seen in the last 20 minutes: Nurses dancing, kids sleeping, JK Rowling (you’d be amazed at how many Harry Potter news feed items row2k gets because websites misspell her last name as ‘Rowing”), some creepy Alice and Wonderland characters, a 100 foot tall Voldemort with sparking wand, Cruella de Vil, and 100 Mary Poppins.
8:43 – Matt Lauer, “I don’t know if that’s cute, or creepy..” There’s a 100 foot baby (I think) in a bed. Consensus here is creepy. Definitely creepy.
8:47 – Mr. Bean playing Chariots of Fire (while iPhone texting)!! James Bond just got punk’d.
9:00 – More highlights: A Mini Cooper with a Go-Pro, British television, social media, four decades of British music, people flying with jetpacks, and the inventor of the world-wide web (not Al Gore).
9:06 – Just realized there’s three more hours of Opening Ceremonies, then the racing starts live 90 minutes after that. This is going to be one epic night…good thing I took a nap this afternoon!
9:13 – David Beckham is now driving a jet boat up the Thames with the Olympic Torch. Could he be the one to light the torch?! No. Way.
9:18 – First Phelps reference in 93 minutes. There won’t be that long of a gap again for the next 17 days. He’s being interviewed by none other than Ryan Seacrest. That guy is everywhere. The parade of nations on deck.
9:24 – Here we go with athletes, Greece up first followed by Afghanistan and Albania. Costas is about to start dropping some serious knowledge. Albania is one of 81 countries competing that has never won a medal.
9:27 – Costas is apparently younger that the flag bearer from Andorra, a trap shooter that also competed in the 1972 Games.
9:28 – Argentina comes in with giant suns on their jacket. row2k is big in Argentina.
9:30 – Here comes the Australian delegation. Lots of bright white pants have been paraded out so far, though nothing too over the top yet. Belarus has all white and apparently their president told them that it’s not about competing at the Olympics…it’s about winning the Olympics.
9:37 – More Costas knowledge, the Bolivian flag bearer is a swimmer who nearly drown as a child.
9:44 – Cameroon has the most unique attire so far, I don’t even know how to describe it though other than colorful.
9:52 – Denmark is historically the most successful non-Asian country at badminton (pretty good lightweight rowing too!)
9:54 – Apparently Ecuador’s most successful Olympian was a race walker in 1996 who then walked home from Atlanta following the Games.
9:57 – Did Estonia just walk in with in urban camo? Then Finland came in right after with some sort of arctic camo getup. What’s going on here?
10:00 – More white pants – Belize, Cayman Islands, Central African Republic, China, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech (White shorts with blue rubber boots), Estonia, Finland, France, Gabon, Georgia, and Germany. This should have been a drinking game but then I’d probably already be asleep.
10:00 – Interesting music selections for the parade of nations, some Amy Winehouse, the BeeGees, and U2.
10:07 – There’s a country called ‘Independent Olympic Athletes’ that has four athletes without a country. These four are the early clubhouse leader for happiest delegation.
10:11 –Israel has white pants too but I’ve lost track of the number countries now, maybe it’s best it wasn’t a drinking game.
10:13 – A Visa commercial just compared Michael Phelps to a bolt of lightning. Coincidentally Usain Bolt just led the Jamaican delegation out.
10:22 – Malaysia are the currently leaders for worst outfits so far, I’ll see if I can dig up an image. Unfortunately the standard bearers that lead out each nation aren’t eligible. They are wearing dresses with people’s faces on them.
10:24 – Costas just mentioned the rowing venue while Mauritania walked out. Random.
10:29 – Here come the Kiwis and yes, the fur coat is back!
10:40 – I can barely keep up with all the delegations pouring out into the stadium and neither can Bob Costas. I think he’s torn up his notes on each country and is just making stuff up now.
10:56 – Dang, I need to go to Turkey. Only a few more countries until the USA!
10:58 – Ukraine didn’t disappoint, the flag bearer had an awesome hat on, but I say Malaysia is still in the lead for worst outfit.
11:01 – Here’s comes team Ralph Lauren..er..the United States! Flag bearer is fencer and ’04 and ’08 Olympic Champion Muriel Zagunis. Both her parents were Olympians and her father was a rower in the 1976 games. Costas didn’t mention any of this….one point row2k. NBC appears to be just looking for the USA men’s basketball team. Hello LeBron and Kobe. Also shown in the crowd, Michelle Obama and Mitt Romney. There’s got to be a joke here but I’m fading fast.
11:08 – Last couple countries: Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Great Britain! GB is wearing white and gold and are coming out to the song ‘Heroes’…no expectations there! Flag bearer is cyclist Chris Hoy. Apparently seven billion pieces of paper were just released over the stadium. I would have thought there were only six billion…
11:17 – Only 45 minutes to go, we’re back to the “entertainment” portion of the event. The Arctic Monkeys are doing a cover of “Come Together” and there are people dressed as pigeons riding bicycles around the stadium. You read that sentence correctly.
11:19 – Now one of the pigeons is doing its best impersonation of E.T. and flying it’s bicycle through air.
11:21 – LeBron James.
11:23 – Talking. Not really paying attention to what’s being said. Bring out the FLAME!
11:24 – My personal favorite torch lighting was from Barcelona in ‘92, the archer who shot the flaming arrow. Talk about pressure! Can the opening ceremonies that had the Queen of England enter the stadium by parachuting from a helicopter possibly top that? Probably not.
11:27 – The Queen officially opens the Games and there are fireworks but no flame! Come on REDGRAVE! REDGRAVE! REDGRAVE! REDGRAVE!
11:30 – Muhammad Ali!
11:32 – Ugh, more David Beckham in a jet boat.
11:33 – REDGRAVE! He takes the torch from Beckham and is now jogging into the stadium! Perfect time for a commercial? NBC thinks so..
11:38 – Redgrave gives the torch off to a group of young athletes. Not sure what’s going on. Give fire back to Redgrave!
11:41 – Now the young athletes all have their own torch with the flame who then light something that turns into a cauldron. Not overly impressed.
Let The Games Begin posted by: Taylor Ritzel (July 27, 2012)
Our annual college uni day photo
I can’t believe it all starts today. I remember when the year marker was a big deal, and then the 100-day mark and then the month mark. Wow, it really does go by fast!
Although most of Team USA has been here for about a week and a half, I still feel like we just got here. Things have definitely picked up since last I wrote. There are foreign athletes everywhere. The dining halls, especially in the morning, are crazy. There is literally no food left and the poor dining hall staff have to restock as quickly as possible for the inevitable late morning influx. The bus lines are also so busy that each time of departure needs at least two buses. The LOCOG workers and volunteers are just awesome. They couldn’t be friendlier and are really on top of their game, even the guards say hello. The course has been packed as well, we had to wait awhile to do practice starts yesterday, but we got to race the Great Britain Men’s Quad and the Canadian Men’s Eight off the line, so we weren’t complaining. While there were quite a few things under construction at Eton Dorney Lake when we first arrived, you can’t tell now. The place is ready to rock and roll.
Due to the fact that racing begins tomorrow, no rowers will be walking in the Opening Ceremonies. This is common for those athletes who compete in the first week. Since we don’t have the opportunity to show off our official Opening Ceremonies outfit by Ralph Lauren, I think a bunch of us are planning to dress up tonight at dinner and while we watch the Ceremonies from our rooms. It’s easy to get caught up in all the excitement surrounding such an incredible event, the palpable energy around everywhere you go and the many articles constantly popping up online. It makes sitting in your room difficult that’s for sure. However, there’s nowhere I’d rather be right now than getting ready to race. We are given very few chances to race internationally in our sport, so any opportunity whether it is at the Royal Henley or the Olympic Games, is a chance to see what you and your teammates are capable of.
Thank you for your support of the NRF and here’s to fast American boats!!
Two Days to Go : One Big Bad Blog Post posted by: Megan Kalmoe (July 26, 2012)
We’ve been keeping busy over the past week or so with final preparations leading up to the start of racing at the 2012 Olympic Games. The initial buzz surrounding processing took a few days to subside, but in general the Team is happy, morale is high and people are enjoying the buildup to the Games. I am very happy to report that I did end up with a second chance to go through my USA gear and retrieve some of the items from my shipping box so I have a full red white and blue wardrobe to rock during the rest of my time in London. Thanks to Scott Schnitzspahn, our USOC man of action for making it happen.
Now that we are down to our final day of preparation before race day on Saturday, we are descending in to our individual focus zones and minimizing distractions both at the course and at the village. With a reputation for being one of the Team’s most social butterflies, it is definitely a focus for me to keep greetings to friends that I haven’t seen in a year or longer very brief and cordial while I’m with my Team and counting down the hours until go time. In this respect, all of the athletes are on the same page and respect everyone’s need to be preparing for performance and not spending our time socializing. We’re all here for the same reason, and there’s very little that we have to say to each other right now that can’t wait until after racing.
So, routine has been different than a lot of trips with the Team, but straightforward. We are staying at the rowing village for these Games, which is different than my past experiences. The village at Royal Holloway College is a great home base for athletes with lots of amenities and comfortable room outfittings for all of the athletes. It is, however, a considerable commute for village-stayers to and from the race venue every day, and this commute also contains a certain level of unpredictability due to traffic to and from. A smooth ride is 30 minutes, traffic pushes it to over an hour. In the first week we also spent some of the longer rides on buses that were a little on the warm side so book or iPad, layers, extra water, and snacks are all advisable items to carry at all times. We have a full dormitory block of just USA rowers on campus including rooms that have been converted for use by PTs and also for bikes and ergs. Rooms are single-occupancy and eight to a wing, so I am bunked up with the rest of the W4X, the team alternates, and the two PT rooms. Each wing also has a common room with a kitchenette (don’t use that much) and a TV.
We make the short pilgrimage to the 24 hour dining hall twice a day, since we typically eat lunch down at the racecourse. The dining hall staff is super-friendly and it has been fun getting to know some of them during our stay. The dining hall here at the rowing village is significantly scaled down from the football field-esque dining center at the main village, so we have a slightly more personal experience here. Even so, in typical rower fashion the village population has managed to surprise the logistical and planning staff with our enormous need for food, and have left the place in shambles and staff scrambling to fill empty trays more than once. I’m not sure who they thought was coming to stay here, but I think it’s safe to say that they are going to have to pull out all the stops to keep things rolling through racing. For me, as long as they keep the eggs, toast, cornflakes and coffee in full supply I will be good to go.
The village also has its fair share of distractions. Since it is a scaled down and more personal version of the main village, it means that we share all of our meals with [almost] all of our closest friends and competitors. The women’s team enters, eats, and leaves meals all together to keep things streamlined (we haven’t descended to matching uniforms for dinner yet–more on that later) and to keep the old folks from sitting around yawing all night over multiple cups of tea (I am talking about myself). Notably missing from this equation are teams from Great Britain and Canada–and soon to be Australia–who have all acquired off site accommodation in order to be closer to the course and to cut down on commuting time (as well as yawing potential at meals). There was a little drama over the accommodations issue earlier this spring but in the end it’s not the hotel you stay at or the bus you ride that wins you an Olympic medal. I’m happy and comfortable at the village and ready to race.
It’s been an uncharacteristically hot couple of days at Dorney for us–much to the delight of my Team GB friends–and it seems that we will continue to have decent weather and warm temps at least through the end of the week. Many of us are skeptical walking in to the venue day after day to find only slight ripples on the lake in one direction or the other–the only real taste of solid cross tail wind coming a few days early in the trip last week. When the wind comes, we will be ready, but we are definitely enjoying the calm conditions every day that we get them. One of the benefits of being one of the first teams to arrive at the lake last week is having been present for the final days of transformation that have turned Dorney into a full-fledged Olympic venue. Signs, flags, banners, colors, dock carpets, jumbo trons, cameras and sound system have all been put into place over the past few days and those little sheep that are placidly grazing along the upper half of the course aren’t going to know what hit them when racing starts.
Finally, I’m posting the most recent video I’ve done and the project that has kept me from blogging a little more regularly during my time here. This is a video that my boat and I discussed working on very early after our selection. They were good enough to provide me with the material, and even though not all of it is perfectly focused, and the audio isn’t great since we filmed it at the boathouse, I hope it gives you an idea of who we are, and how we work together as a Team. We have a lot of fun training and racing together and are all very proud and excited to be representing the US at the 2012 Games. I hope you enjoy getting to know your W4X.
row2k on the ground in London and ready to bang and mash posted by: Ed Hewitt (July 24, 2012)
Welcome to London!
I arrived at Heathrow late Monday night, and although the sun barely goes down here, was up and on it early to try to get out to the racecourse by afternoon to shoot some pics and have a look around. Getting to the main media center (MPC) took about a half-day, however, as no one in the Olympic Park (heck, no one in London) seemed to know quite where it is, so I got a full walking tour of almost the entire Olympic Park, including nearly every dead end and closed-off walkway - but I'll call it good luck, as it was nearly empty of people; soon enough it will be filled with tens of thousands of people, and a nice walking tour won't be so easy.
My original plan had been to go to the racecourse first thing in the morning, but a couple issues kept me from executing the plan, and it was another piece of good luck, as you can't raise your camera out at the course without an official photo bib, and the bibs are to be had only at the MPC - so I was spared going out to the course only to be turned away. As I arrived at the MPC, which is fronted by ground to ceiling glass windows, inside the very first window I saw UK photographer Peter Spurrier - what are the odds that the first guy you see is another rowing specialist photographer? So overall things are clicking so far - or maybe it's just my optimistic nature to see it that way - it must be because, even a year later, I Feel Love.
No media shuttles to Eton Dorney are in operation yet, so for the Wednesday morning row I am going to hit the ATM and stock up on 20-quid notes to pay a cab driver some Games-time surcharges for a ride to the course, ouch - getting home will be another challenge.
Like most Yanks dropping into London this week, I'm on two nights of very little sleep, so going to try to rack it now; I should have some actual rowing pics tomorrow. Here we go!
Today started with an early morning row for us down at the course. Early actually means an eight a.m. bus which compared to our normal training schedule isn’t very early at all. The weather was fantastic, definitely the best day we’ve had yet. Hopefully the sunshine will hold out for the rest of the trip, but after talking to the locals it seems like it’s never a good idea to get hopeful about the weather in England.
With five days to go until the start of races, our taper has begun. For those non-rowers, a taper is when we workout less and rest a lot more. It’s the final stage in our preparation for the London games. Rowers are usually divided over whether they like tapers or not. Some people love the extra energy and downtown, others get restless and don’t like the feeling of training less. Personally I’m a big fan of the taper. I enjoy the extra free time, and it’s a signal that racing is about to begin.
Since we’re starting to rest more for our upcoming race, we only had one row at the course, and then the afternoon was a cross training session on the bike. Cross training is always nice because you give your mind a little break from rowing. One of the more difficult aspects of training isn’t just the physical but the mental as well. It’s tough mentally to go through the monotony of training so a little break from rowing is always appreciated.
It’s starting to get a lot busier at the course and at the village. We were one of the first teams to show up to London but now many of the other countries are starting to arrive. When everyone is trying to share only seven lanes on a 2,000 meter course it can get pretty hectic. To make things even more difficult, not all the countries speak English. It’s easy to get a little nervous seeing an eight bearing down on you when you’re trying to turn, and knowing that they have no idea what you’re saying to them.
The four of us have gotten a great response from everyone reading this blog and visiting the site. The United States Lightweight Rowing Association was created with two main objectives in mind. The first is to create a network of people who want to support lightweight rowing and keep in touch with other lightweight rowing supporters. We hope that everyone who reads this blog will create a profile on our site and check out other members. The second main goal is to help raise money for those training on the US National Team, with a special emphasis on those going for the Olympics in 2016. There is very little funding in rowing, especially in lightweight rowing, but it only takes a little amount to make a big difference. Anyone interested in supporting should check out the donate page on the site linked below.
And be sure to check out the pictures we’ve been uploading to get a behind the scenes look at life at the Olympics!
Getting into a groove posted by: Gevvie Stone (July 24, 2012)
Closing Ceremony gear
I can't believe this is my fourth day on this side of the pond. The past three days have sped by with the following routine:
-- Grab breakfast (Literally grab in some cases as I have a tendency to take longer than I expect in the morning and the buses leave on the hour to the second. Fortunately, they allow food on the buses.)
--Bus ride (The rowing athlete village is about 40 minutes--bus leaving to walking into the boathouse, including going through bus security--without traffic. I've been lucky enough that I haven't experienced the traffic yet. The women's eight left practice around rush hour one day and had a 90' ride.)
--Row (As taper has started, I start with a shorter row in the morning. It's nice to have the short row first as it allows me time to wake-up and to warm-up.
--Stretch/Core (The Olympics built a tent city behind/to the right of the boathouse. Each country is provided with one or more (depending on the number of athletes) tent(s). In the case of small delegations, some countries share tents, and it's somewhat amusing to see how the UK decided to pair teams together. Example: One for IRL, RSA and ZIM (see the theme? former colonies). These tents put our make-shift tent from World Champs last year to shame. Carpeted hard floors (raised so as not to get soggy in rain), electric lights, stretching mats, camping cots for napping, etc. The USA has four tents: two for stretching, etc, one for ergs and stationary bikes and one for the PTs.)
--Another smaller breakfast (Sometime, I'm really going to miss rowing.)
--Relax in the athlete lounge (The second floor of the boathouse has been outfitted with comfy chairs and wireless connection. It's easy to waste time online for the hour or so before rowing again. I also bring my Kindle daily though I confess I haven't taken it out of my bag during the day yet.)
--Row again (The main workout of the day. Usually (aka every day thus far) something on the hard side. Pressure when it counts, but total volume (meters rowed) and number of pieces is down compared to a month ago thanks to taper. Today, my first row here working the cadence up high.)
--Eat again, lunch (The food at the course somewhat puts the athlete village to shame. The dishes they choose to serve are relatively fancy with good variety. Most importantly, it tastes good! An example: Yesterday's lunch included pasta w/ three sauce options (a permanent fixture though the sauces change), salmon, curried vegetables, peas, rice, banoffee pie. I think it would sound better if I described the food like the head chef does, "Rosemary balsamic oven roasted potatoes" in an English accent.)
Sidenote: I'd heard of banoffee pie before thanks to "Love Actually" (the scene when Natalie Portman goes to Andrew Lincoln (Mark)'s house to leave him the tape). And it sounds so good...like banana + toffee. YUM. Well, turns out it's banana + coffee. But still YUM. I recommend ordering it the next time you visit the UK.
--Bus again (Hopefully avoiding traffic. The weekend helps...not too many commuters.)
--Village time (By now it's approximately 2:45pm. I take my time freshening up, quick nap then play online--write these email essays, catch up on my internet browsing, etc. Unlike hotels whose internet tend to get bogged down when teams of rowers decide to hang out on their computers all day, this is a school campus so it's prepared for all our world wide web action.)
--Dinner! (While the dining hall here doesn't quite match the 4-star lunches at the course, it serves up very respectable dining hall food. I am eating plenty. And, most importantly, dinner is a great time to hang out with the US rowing team--all of us decked out in different selections from our gear package. Last night, I spent 2 hours at dinner just because I was having a great conversation with my teammates. Many interesting conversation topic choices, lots of laughing, and the BBC is always on TVs around the room, so we have an easy time reverting to Olympics talk too. (Our being athletes probably helps with that.))
Sidenote: The dining hall is open 24/7 so no one will ever kick us out and we can spend as long as we want at dinner--glorious.
--Hallway time (I live across the hall from Susan Francia and Esther Lofgren, and they could successfully create a comedy team. The lightweight double and Ken (M1x) usually join in on our fun. Examples of conversation topics include Justin Bieber and Tim Tebow. Last night, we tried on our closing ceremony dresses, which had been tailored by the Ralph Lauren team and arrived right before dinner.)
--Sleep (I'm very good at that, especially after these full and exhausting days.)