What a day! I’m still pinching myself to make sure I’m not just sleeping. It’s been a total whirlwind the past twelve hours, and I’m pretty sure my endorphin high still hasn’t worn off…
Over the past three days, we’ve witnessed some incredible racing, with some medals being decided by agonizingly close margins (ex: the Chinese LM4- missing the silver medal by .01 seconds). We’ve also watched as pre-race favorites have faltered in difficult water conditions, or as dark horse crews sprinted their way onto the medals stand with an unexpected surge. So even if the USA was considered a favorite for the W8+, we knew better than to let the hype get to our heads. The other boats were going to fight for every inch.
With this in mind, in our pre-race meeting, we talked about racing a gutsy, aggressive race, and to take nothing for granted. “Don’t wait”, our coxie told us, “If the other crews are going to hold our pace, we have to make them pay.” In short, we planned to push our own limits of “comfortable” race pace, and trust that our fitness and the adrenaline would carry us to the finish line.
So yesterday afternoon, we lined up against the five fastest eights in the world: China, Romania, Canada, Great Britain, and the Netherlands. We were encouraged by the beautiful conditions: flat water, slight wind, warm temps. And we also drew on the energy of the thousands of spectators (more than I’ve ever seen at a regatta!), who we could hear cheering all the way at the starting line!
It wasn’t a perfect race (then again, no race ever is!). But it was a well-executed, powerful, no-holds-barred race. We set up a blistering base rhythm (36-37 strokes a minute, for all you rowing buffs), and powered all the way to the finish. It wasn’t until the last hundred meters that I actually realized we were going to win… I had been so focused on following Taylor’s back in front of me, and listening to Mary’s coxing, that I didn’t even comprehend that we had open water on our competition!
I started grinning in the last 50 meters, and I didn’t stop smiling for the next few hours– receiving our gold medal, hearing our national anthem, tossing Mary into the lake, meeting up with our parents… aside from my legs, I think the sorest part of my body are my smiling muscles!
Along with our medals, we also received a “pounamu”, or a greenstone, carved in the form of a Maori paddle. These taongas (or “treasured gifts”) are gifts to the gold medalists from the Maori tribes of the Waikato River. Each one is hand-carved and unique, and each one is extremely precious. While I’m proud of my gold medal, I”m especially honored to receive this gift from our Maori hosts.
So, what’s next? We have a few weeks off (and by “off” I mean “keep training on your own”), then it’s back to training in earnest after Thanksgiving. 2011 is an Olympic qualifying year, so it’s very important that we maintain our fitness in the upcoming weeks. After all, it’s only nine short months until the 2011 World Championships in Bled, Slovenia! I’m spending the next few weeks tramping NZ with Mom and Dad, though knowing Redman Adventure Tours, I’ll probably improve my fitness!