This week row2k features Radcliffe Senior Lightweight rower Naomi Lang. Lang made her way to Radcliffe from Australia, has won IRA gold, and this year started Female Athletes of Boston.
row2k - How did you get your start in rowing??
Naomi Lang - I played every sport under the sun throughout my schooling days. Tennis, softball, soccer, swimming, netball, and basketball – you name it, I played it, but I never played it particularly well. I’m talking zero hand-eye coordination. So when rowing was offered my freshman year of high school and no one mentioned anything about throwing and catching balls, I signed up immediately. My Mum and Popa both rowed so I was praying that my genetics would help me out, and it turns out they did! I loved rowing from the very first practice, and spent two years rowing quad sculls and then two years in sweep eights. I quit the rest of my failed (though courageous) endeavors at ball sports and never looked back.
row2k - How did you end up at Radcliffe from Australia??
Naomi Lang - During my sophomore year in high school my family took a trip to the west coast. We drove around L.A, San Francisco and San Diego and my dad decided to show me what a real American University looked like. When we walked around Stanford’s campus I was star struck. Everything was so green, the stadiums so large and the sky so blue, I just knew this is where I needed to be. My dad assured me that Harvard was a similarly inspiring campus and so when I applied and was accepted, I said yes without blinking an eye. What my dad did not tell me was that the east coast might as well be a different country from the west coast. He failed to warn me that the green grass and blue sky would be more difficult to see due to the never-ending blizzard and snowstorm assaults. But now I have a full-length winter jacket (I had never even seen this style of coat in Australia) and a pair of snow boots, so it’s all good.
row2k - You recently started a blog called Female Athletes of Boston, what's the story on how and why you created it??
Naomi Lang - For my final project in a course called Sport as Performance, I was doing research on female and male athlete coverage in the media. I found a statistic that said females make up 40% of the athlete population but they receive 4% of the media coverage. I noticed that most of the coverage they do receive is sexualized and trivialized. If female athletes are constantly being asked about their dating lives, and Serena Williams is always being criticized for her “masculine” body, it is no surprise that young girls are twice as likely to drop out of school sports by the age of 14 compared to boys. One of the reasons for this high dropout rate is due to a lack of positive female athlete role models.
I want to change this. Female athletes are underutilized figures in encouraging young girls to stick with sport and reap the benefits of being part of a team competing for a shared goal. Female Athletes of Boston serves to empower female athletes by allowing them to report their own achievements, and also inspire all of womankind to do the same. On that note, If you’re reading this and you are a Female Athlete of Boston, submit something for the blog!
Lang (right) and Female Athletes of Boston
row2k - How do you hope to see Female Athletes of Boston grow in the future??
Naomi Lang - I’m working on creating a social media movement and brand called FAN: Female Athletes Network. I plan to have websites for cities and countries all over the world (FAN Boston, FAN San Diego etc.) and inspire young girls to participate in sport through the stories and performance images of powerful female athletes.
row2k - What's your experience being a female athlete in Boston??
Naomi Lang - Awesome. Whether I’m rowing down or running along the Charles River, I am always surrounded by countless other male and female athletes. I feel privileged to be a part of the Harvard Varsity community on campus and to have rowed for a boat club like Harvard-Radcliffe. Walking into the sacred space of Weld Boathouse is a part of my everyday routine and something I am going to miss once I graduate.
row2k - What do you like most about the sport of rowing??
Naomi Lang - That’s honestly like asking me to pick one ice cream flavor. It’s impossible. I love the way rowing is a no excuse sport. Regardless of your natural abilities, you have to train your physical and technical skills every day if you want to be the best. I love the team dynamic. This sport is so spiritual it may as well be a religion. There is nothing like a crew’s bond because when you are out there fighting for first, every stroke hurts and every person is in that space of pain together. But you commit to each other and you keep pulling and you never stop believing in the impossible and that is how you win. Having eight people put their faith and their bodies on the line like that is pretty incredible.
row2k - What has been your most memorable race and why??
Naomi Lang - Winning IRAs in 2014. Not only did we win in the last stroke, but my parents were also there from Australia to see it. Also, our boat had no idea we had won, so we had a solid ten minutes of paddling back up the lane and feeling despondent at having come so close to gold, before we learned we had done it. It was the most exhilarating, painful, other-worldly experience I have ever had. Easily the best day of my life, and the first win for Harvard-Radcliffe Lightweights since 1997.
row2k - What are you studying at Radcliffe and do you have any plans yet for after college?
Naomi Lang - I’m studying English with a secondary in Psychology, which means I get to study two of my great though incompatible loves; Shakespeare and positive psychology. I have grand plans for the second half of this year: I am planning to spend 6 months travelling to over 22 states in the U.S.A to collect hundreds of stories and photos of inspiring female athletes. I’ll be uploading them onto the website FAN USA. I’m hoping to raise awareness about the gender inequality in media coverage and turn FAN into a global and national non-profit that increases the participation of young girls in sports.