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row2k Starting Five: Erin Cafaro
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
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Erin Cafaro, bow seat of the USA women's 8+

1. What inspired you to go to your first rowing practice; was there anything memorable about it?

During the spring of my senior year in high school my dad showed me a newspaper article about a local girl from the next town over from my hometown of Modesto, CA, who had picked up rowing once she got to college, earned a scholarship, and was then rowing for the US National Team. I figured if a farmer's daughter from Turlock could do it, I could definitely do it too. I contacted the closest rowing club, which was about 45 minutes away in Stockton, CA, to see what this crew thing was all about. After school one day I drove over and we took out this tank of a boat that took 20 kids and parents to take it down to the water. I raced a couple times in that boat and I remember they made me wear ribbons in my hair and tight shorts. I was a basketball player at the time, so I hated the ribbons and anything tight. But, I was able to finagle my way into walking on to the Cal Women's Crew Team the upcoming fall, so I decided to stick with it a little longer. The local girl from Turlock turned out to be Ali Cox, who was 4 seat in the Silver Medal Olympic W8+ in 2004 in Athens.

2. Was there a practice, race or other event when you fell in love with the sport, or when you knew you might not be too bad at rowing? When you thought you could make the national team?

I remember when I was calling up college coaches my senior year in high school to see if they would take walk-ons, they asked me if I had a 2k score. We had taken a 2k "test" if you will, at Stockton Rowing Club one afternoon and I had pulled the best score among the boys and the girls. So I told the coaches from University of Washington, Stanford, and Cal that I had pulled a whopping 8:45. The only one that continued to talk to me was Sara Nevin, the Cal Women's Crew freshman coach, bless her heart. My freshman year at Cal I remember doing erg tests and competing for time with girls 30-50 lbs. heavier than me. And then being at the front of the pack during timed runs and bleachers. There was nobody else who was good at both, so I thought that I might have something special going for me.

3. Best race/practice, worst race/practice?

I came out to train with the National Team in the fall of 2005, and they happened to be doing pairs matrices. The extent of my pair experience was flipping off the dock a couple times my freshman year of college. I remember when I got there I was put in a boat with the infamous bow seat of the 2004 Silver Medal W8+, none other than Kate Johnson. I was so nervous and intimidated and I really wanted to impress her with my strength, because heaven knows I wasn't going to do it with my boat skills. We were supposed to be doing an "easy" steady state row, so I was hauling on it, doing everything I could so that KJ wouldn't pull me around, but the boat still swerved to port. I could tell she was getting pissed that she had to row with this little weak sauce college kid who couldn't pull her own weight. Meanwhile, I was about to lose all bodily functions because my heart rate had been around 190 for the past 12k of steady state. We finally got back to the dock and Coach Tom comes over and asks how the row was. I'm on the verge of a breakdown and KJ tells him that she didn't get much of a workout in because she kept pulling me around. So Tom took one look at the boat and told us that maybe it was because we had lost the entire fin off the bottom of the boat.

4. Best/Anything you've done in the sport no one knows about?

I was the tallest girl or guy in my class up until 7th grade. It's been all downhill since then.

5. Any/Most important advice for young rowers?

Work hard. Relax hard. Find your weakness and make it your strength.

Hometown: Modesto, Calif.
Current Residence: Princeton, N.J.
Club Affiliation: USRowing Training Center
Began Rowing: Stockton Rowing Club, 2001
Date of Birth: 6/9/1983
Height: 5'10"
Weight: 160
High School: Modesto High School
Undergraduate Education: University of California at Berkeley, 2006
Current Coach: Tom Terhaar
Personal: Erin is a three-time senior national team member and a first-time Olympian...She lists her most memorable moment in sports as winning the 2005 NCAA Championships with Cal...Erin's brother played on the defensive line at Cal from 2000-2004...She became interested in rowing after she saw an article on former national team rower Ali Cox in the local newspaper...Erin would eventually like to continue her education in kinesiology and become an exercise physiologist...She is a San Francisco Giants fan and a college football and basketball fan...Her mother worked for the Giants for several years, and Erin was born and raised a Giants fan...Her family still has season tickets...Erin was at Candlestick Park when the earthquake occurred at the 1989 World Series...Erin says she is pretty superstitious and always adds 22 seconds to any workout or warm-up...As a Giants fan growing up, her favorite player was Will Clark and the extra 22 seconds comes from his jersey number...Erin enjoys action movies, particularly Bond flicks, and watches Rob and Big and CSI on television...She enjoys running and would like to qualify for the Boston Marathon.


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