Editor's Note: This post was written before Esther Lofgren and her teammates won a gold medal in Thursday's final.
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!
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 11:50 AM, 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!!!
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!
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 confiden t- -we are so proud to have you representing the USA!
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 PM, 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.
Follow Esther Lofgren on Twitter: www.twitter.com/estherlofgren