Hometown: Ithaca, N.Y.
High School: Ithaca High School
Undergraduate Education: Harvard University, Psychology, 2005
Graduate Education: Columbia Law School, 2012
Olympic Career: Athens 2004 silver, W8+; Beijing 2008 gold, W8+
Most memorable sporting achievement: “beating all the boys in my third-grade class arm-wrestling competition”
I was 13 years old, tagging along behind my father in a local grocery store, when a large man walked up, pointed his finger at me, and said “I want YOU for rowing!” As a tall, lanky young girl, I was apparently easily identifiable as possessing potential to be a star rower.
That was my unexpected introduction to the sport of rowing. Due to scheduling issues with school I did not actually begin competing until a year later, when my family moved to Tasmania, Australia, on a year-long sabbatical. By then my older brother had gotten involved in the sport, and at 5:30am one morning not long after we arrived in the Land Down Under, I tagged along behind him to the boathouse at the bottom of the hill.
The coach at that Australian rowing club later admitted that he had been reluctant to let me join due to the large number of girls already filling the roster. I proved myself worthy, however, and at the end of the year I was presented with the club’s “Most Promising Oarswoman” award.
Nobody’s expectations for me were higher than my own. That summer my brother went off to Cincinnati to try out for the Junior National Team, and I was determined to follow in his footsteps. I returned to Cascadilla Boat Club in Ithaca and began doing extra workouts on my own in addition to team workouts.
I continued my schedule of extra workouts in college at Harvard under the watchful eye of elder teammate Michelle Guerette, who was also training for the National Team. I took a year off school to train for my first Olympics in 2004, and came home from Athens with a silver medal in the eight-person boat.
There was never any question in my mind that I would continue rowing after college. I had a score to settle with the Romanians who beat us in Athens. After graduation in 2005, I moved to New Jersey to train full-time with the National Team in preparation for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing
I named my mission “Operation Gold-Medal Bling in ‘Jing,” which my teammates thought was pretty hokey, but it did lighten up the very serious job that lay ahead of us. After years of arduous training, we were there at the starting line, the moment of a lifetime. I led my teammates down the 2-kilometer course from the pace-setting position in the boat, and when it was over, we had won. Mission accomplished.
After Beijing I decided to go back to school and get an advanced degree in preparation for what we athletes refer to as “real life”. I am currently in my first year at Columbia Law School. I have not yet decided whether I will return to competition for the 2012 Games in London. I will always love the sport and the people in it, but at some point I will have to get a “real job”. Regardless of what happens in the future, I am thankful for that fateful day many years ago when I gazed back at the big scary coach pointing his finger at me and asked in confusion, “who, ME?”