Thanks for the support and great work on the ‘Star. Great stuff.
We’re glad you sent it, Matt. We couldn’t have ask for anything more than you and the girls gave us during these Olympics Games. We’re so proud of you all.
There is a picture that one of the Potomac Boat Club members posted on the bulletin board in 2009. It is a picture of Margot rowing the single in Poland in 2009 with a handwritten caption, “Margot on here way to the Olympics 2012 The Form—Check It Out.” Often I would stop, check the technique (can’t help it), but more importantly the photo has served as a reminder of the Dream.
This spring we had an opportunity to seize the Dream and live the Dream with everything that goes along with an Olympic effort. It took a lot. The commitment of our families, specifically my wife, our supporters and our Potomac Village helped to make our efforts possible. However, Margot Shumway and Sarah Trowbridge are the ones that demonstrated the hearts and minds of Olympians throughout the challenges and the joys of the journey it took to get to London and while we were there. Their efforts and determination will always have my respect. We knew in Chula Vista on April 12, that improvements needed to be made to what we were doing. Each race, each piece, each of the hard workouts during our three-a-day regimen, they took on the challenge and responsibility and did improve to the point of putting themselves in the hunt for a medal.
We do a race-talk the night before the race to go over details, logistics and race plans for the next day. Racing from Lane 1 and being the 6th qualifier to the field of 6 we knew we had challenges to be in contention for a medal. The lanes were also reseeded the morning of the race giving the more sheltered lanes 6 and 5 to the heat winners Britain and Australia. There also was the fact that Britain’s Kath Grainger, who had three Olympic Silvers and her partner hadn’t lost for three years and that the Australians were right on their heals. However, of the other four boats, US, China, Poland and New Zealand, we were not far off on splits from the heats and rep. and knew there was a shot at a medal. We focused on how to emphasize the first 1000 meters of the race and be in contact with the other boats. I asked Margot and Sarah for 2-3.5 seconds to be made up on the field and then raising the rate and essentially starting our sprint with 900 meters to go. We were going to go out and race for a medal without worrying about trying to beat Kath Grainger or the Aussies.
As expected the British went out fast and the Australians went with them. Margot and Trow had a great start and made up those 2-3 seconds on the Chinese and the New Zealand crew, staying in contact with both. However the veteran Polish crew, which we had raced bow to stern in the heats, had also found an additional gear and pushed to open water on the three trailing crews. Just as planned in the middle of the piece, our athletes began their push and were moving back on the Poles getting in front of the Kiwis and right with the Chinese. Both us and Poland paid that price. The Poles had gained enough of a lead to secure the medal and while we did negative split the 3rd and 4th 500’s we needed even more in the 2nd 500 to get through the other boats as the final four boats came across in contact with one another, 2.62 secs separating the boats racing for bronze.
Racing a final anywhere, you go out to have the your best race and take your shot at a medal. At the Olympics you also are representing your country, your team, your club, university, friends, family, etc., as it is a much higher profile event. For the British team, not only was their printed press, tv and swarms of reporters around the athletes, but the course announcers as well, inadvertently or not, would share information with the crowd and in the case of our race, did nothing but hype the British double. They went as far as saying, how disappointing it would be if Kath Grainger did not win, after her previous three Olympic silver medals. Kath Grainger and Anna Watkins handled the pressure and did win. Our athletes represented everyone and most importantly themselves at the highest level, handled the pressure and put themselves in contention.
In being 2.6+ seconds away from a medal, it feels like we were very close. However, there was some tremendous racing where medals were determined by tenths of seconds. The US Men’s 8 had a tough fourth place finish in a tight six boat field that had all boats close, but taking fourth by .3. Our Women’s Pair made the final directly and then raced to within .2 of a medal again in fourth. Tremendous efforts by both teams, but bittersweet in the end leaving the athletes dazed long after leaving the course. In a race that comes down to tenths of seconds over a 2k course, there is no greater gap in placement for all involved than the gap from 3rd to 4th as a medal can be a life changing event. Time heals all wounds, but the finality of the Olympics and retirement for many, another four years for others, is a reminder of how much efforts is put forth by the athletes, teams and sports that are taking place here.
After our race, Margot’s family invited me to lunch and it was great to spend time with her family, and especially her Mom, Julia. I mentioned it in an earlier post, but she came over to London in the middle of chemo during her ongoing battle with cancer. Seeing her strength and having her at the races clearly shows were Margot gets here edge. Also, great to see coach Reilly Dampeer and Stefanie Kozuszek the day before the finals, as they helped to keep things balanced before races and over lunch.
As coaches our credentials get transferred to coaches/officials who come in for the second week of competition with other sports, so we are not able to stay and see other events. The athletes move into the main village while the majority of coaches head back home. I was able to visit the main village, eat at the dining hall and see some of the Olympic Village and Olympic Park. The USA House is the USOC sponsored center that hosts, Olympians, friends, and importantly USOC sponsors. Great to see so many familiar faces from the rowing community, National Rowing Foundation and the USRowing Board, but also from the Olympic community. Mary Lou Retton, Leroy Burrell, and Greg Louganis were all there the first night we were there and many of the rowers hung with the all of the swimmers on my last night in town.
Literally ran from USA house to catch the last train at midnight back to the Rowing Village for a 4:30 a.m. airport pick-up. I’ve been home all week catching up with wife kids, working with the transition from GeoIQ to ESRI, nursing a bad back and watching/sharing as much Olympic coverage as I could fit in with the kids.
It is always sad to see the torch extinguished. However, Jacque Rogge, IOC Chair invited the youth of the world to gather again in four years time in Rio. You never know what can happen, but that would certainly be a dream for any of the three of us. Margot and Trow are looking at starting coaching careers, and you can bet they will pour everything they have into their efforts.
Thank you for all of the support.