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Arriving at the Olympic race course

As the years go by, it sometimes gets hard to remember how I celebrated a certain birthday. Was it my 23nd when the team threw me a surprise party? Was it my 16th or my 17th that fell during our family raft trip on the St Joe River? How old was I when we celebrated with a backyard bbq? Well, I will never have any problem remembering my 26th birthday: I WAS AT THE OLYMPICS!

An Olympic Birthday!

Coach tries to stress that, for all intents and purposes, this event is just like any normal World Championships, but there are still minute-by-minute reminders that this is no ordinary competition—this is something special!

The magic started the moment we landed at Heathrow. A LOCOG (London Organizing Committee) host and a USOC rep met us at our gate to expedite our trip through Customs and Immigration. On the bus to the Olympic Rowing Village, we took advantage of the “Olympic Lanes” on the highway—designated lanes to help athletes and othe VIPs avoid the typical London traffic.

Arriving at the Olympic Rowing Village. Despite their huge guns, the policemen are actually quite jolly and excited to see us.

We arrived at the Village, where a security team greeted us, checked the bus for bombs, screened and x-rayed our luggage, sent us through a metal detector, and put us onto a secure internal shuttle to pass through two more guarded gates before we reached the Village Center. (For all the media hubbub over Games security, the athletes at the Rowing Village are feeling *very* safe! It seems that there are more policemen, soldiers, and armed guards than there are athletes!)

I get my own room!

This superstar treatment didn’t end at the security checkpoint– as we were one of the first delegations to arrive, our reception was especially enthusiastic. The LOCOG volunteers and staff could not be more cheerful or accommodating (“Oh my, look! A real athlete!”, spoken by the volunteer in the athlete internet lounge). We have single rooms (!), a laundry service (!!),  a well-equipped gym and hi-tech rec center, and a 24-hour dining hall! AND, if all this wasn’t enough to make my birthday special, there was the gear!  Nike and Ralph Lauren were almost overwhelming in their generosity, and thanks to my awesome teammates, Amanda and I are outfitted in head-to-toe USA Olympic gear!

Best. Birthday. Present. Ever.

Of course, we don’t spend all day just trying on posh Ralph Lauren outfits and noshing on tea and biscuits in the dining hall. We also have a job to do: stay fit, hone our top-end speed, and perfect the final race plan. We’re logging the miles out at the race course in Eton Dorney, enjoying the quiet boatyard before all the other countries start arriving. (Like the Village, we’re one of the first countries to show up at the course, so the multitude of officials and volunteers are extremely excited to see us!)

Two friendly volunteers gave me a tour of the bike rental tent (free bikes for any athletes or coaches who want to ride around the lake!)

All in all, I couldn’t have asked for a more memorable birthday! Definitely one for the record books!

Hurray for the Olympics!

I just posted many more photos up online! For a more detailed behind-the-scenes look at our life at the Games, check out my two facebook albums!
“Headed to London”: Team USA flies across the Atlantic and arrives safe and sound at the Olympic Village
“Welcome to the Olympics”: Team USA begins their final week of preparations at the official Olympic race course at Eton Dorney

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[I just posted a new public album on Facebook: “Headed to London!”  Check it out and share!]

Off to London!

Today’s the day!  Team USA headed to the airport in t-minus one hour! My bags are packed, my passport is up-to-date, I have my in-flight entertainment (NY Times crossword + People Magazine= bliss!)… I’m ready to go!

The past three weeks have been an absolute whirlwind… team fundraisers, media events, athlete meet-and-greets, and of course, good hard training. I don’t want to give away any team secrets, but suffice it to say: Team USA is FAST!

Not only is Susan an amazing rower, she’s also baking rockstar! Her W8+ cake was over six feet long, and came equipped with eight Barbie rowers (and one Skipper coxie), each with a custom hairstyle and a hand-stitched unisuit.

Amanda and I were selected as the reserve pair, which means that should any medical disaster or unforeseen catastrophe befall one of our teammates (knock on wood!), we will step in and race. We must be ready to hop in any seat, in any boat, at any time; so for the last three weeks, we’ve found ourselves in singles, pairs, doubles, fours, eights… the goal is to be fit, fast, and adaptable!

Amanda and I preparing for another training session

It’s easy to get distracted by all the pre-Games hype: everywhere we look, there’s another magazine cover or celebrity tweet or news article about the Olympics. But from now until race day, Team USA will be focused on only one thing: preparing to RACE. Until then, we won’t be distracted by the hubbub over the Ralph Lauren apparel (made in China!), or the London nightclub scene (parties everywhere!), or the perks of being a US athlete (gear package!). USRowing has some business to take care of at Eton Dorney…

Eton Dorney, here we come.

Go Team USA!

P.S.  On a different note, my teammate Megan Kalmoe put together an insightful video blog and essay about “What it Means to be an Olympic Hopeful“. Check it out!

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