Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Olympic Final: Last One, Fast One!

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!

Mary Whipple, Caryn Davies, Caroline Lind, Elle Logan, Meghan Musnicki,
Taylor Ritzel, me, Susan Francia, and Erin Cafaro off the start!
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!!!

Natalie Dell, Kara Kohler, Megan Kalmoe, and Adrienne Martelli
showing off the hard-work hardware!

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!

Sara Hendershot and Sarah Zelenka, two of the biggest rockstars I know.

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!

David Banks, Grant James, Ross James, Will Miller, Giuseppe Lanzone, Steve
Kaspyrzyk, Jake Cornelius, Brett Newlin, and Zach Vlahos gettin' after it.

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.



Anonymous said...

I said it before the Worlds last year, I'll say it again:

Edge of Glory.

- a well-wisher

elinor may said...

you are an inspiration to me and the countless other female rowers out there who get up every day to push themselves beyond what they thought they could do. you and your teammates are my heros!

godspeed tomorrow!

Anonymous said...

Fully confident that you guys will take it to 'em tomorrow. Go USA!
- Tony S.

SPO said...

So stoked for you guys!! Go get it!

Anonymous said...

Great work!

elinor may said...

what a victory! you and your boat mates have made your country proud. thank you for bringing home the gold!

congratulations to the US women's Olympic eight! that's what i call a job well done.

Scalpels and Sequins said...

Congratulations! Great story, loved it. I'm a dutch rower myself en I really enjoyed the race today.

Anonymous said...

Bravo ! I am from Montreal, Canada and I am very happy for the silver medal of canadian team specially for Andreanne Morin. But I love great olympics athletes of all countries and I watched your course you were sublime !!!

Bravo beautiful and gorgeous champion ! ;)

Denis xx

Kat Augustine said...

Congratulations Esther! We were screaming so loud for you here in Newport, you probably heard us at the grandstands. A decisive Gold for USA, all that Garfield & focus paid off. You guys made it look easy!

Kat said...

Yea for autocorrect. You never know what you'll get. Hard work = Garfield? Oh well. All US Rowing teams have made us proud!

Michael Ezra said...

I met you earlier this evening at Team USA HQ at the Royal College of Art. You kindly agreed to allow a photograph to be taken of me standing next to you.

I cannot begin to express my gratitude for that kind gesture. It was truly an honour to meet you. I feel like I came in contact with someone who has done something beyond normality and into the far reaches of extraordinary.

I wish you the best of luck in all your future endeavours. I am still somewhat starstruck.

Warm regards and best wishes,

Michael Ezra

Elizabeth Echternach said...

Congratulations Esther! You must be in awe and wonderfully proud of yourself........Elizabeth Echternach

Frankie McDonnell. Coventry. England. said...

I met you and Susan Francia and some of the rest of the team on the London Eye after your Gold Success. You and the team were wonderfully friendly, allowing us to take photographs despite being off duty & out for a bit of RnR. A credit to your country in and out of your sport. Congratulations.