What do you say about the race where you won Olympic gold? It was the best race of my career, and we were lucky enough to have that on exactly the right day. I am so thankful I got to share the awesome races we had here with my teammates, and with everyone who came to watch us and who tuned in back home. So many people helped us get across that line, and it was so wonderful to know that we had won for much, much more than just ourselves.
I finally had a chance to watch the race for the first time when we got back to the U.S. on the 13th, and everything looks much clearer than it felt. We executed the same strong first 500 that we had in our heat, and when we finally lengthened down to our base rate, we just moved on the field. Just like our heat, it was a little strange to be able to see the entire field, but this time, it didn't feel like a fluke -- it felt like we were doing what we came to London to do. There was a strong cross wind that picked up in the middle 1000, but our boat and the rest of the crews handled the sometimes tricky conditions well.
As we crossed through 750 to go, the roar of the crowd again got louder and louder. Even with the speakers turned to max, only stern pair could hear Mary for the last 500! But our experience and boat feel helped us execute the last 500 exactly as we'd trained to do. Canada made a last-minute push, but it wasn't enough. We kept rowing and rowing and finally... I saw the bubble line passing up near the stern. (No one heard the beep!) We were across the finish line! And WE'D WON THE OLYMPICS!
Immediately, I was overcome with emotion. The night before our race, and the morning of, I had thought back over everything I'd been through, and everything our team had been through, to be there, on that start line. A lot of training, sure, but also a lot of sacrifice, dedication, and above all, the support of the people who'd helped us become athletes who could win Olympic gold. Though I was beaming, the tears came, and I let them. Totally spent, I leaned forward and hugged Taylor, and then flopped back onto Susie. My girls. So, so proud of them and of what we had all accomplished together.
The rest of the post-race time is a bit of a blur. First to the media dock, where we were finally able to hug each other and share the moment with each other. Lots of interviews, lots of happy crying, lots of smiles. Then back to the boat to row to the medals dock.
Wow. This is our Olympic podium. I could see my parents, my boyfriend, my brother, and way, way up in the very last row of the grandstand, yelling her head off, Liz O'Leary, my college coach. Susan punched me: "You HAVE to stop crying. You're ruining everyone's pictures!" We all held hands, waiting for the Dutch and the Canadians to receive their medals. And then: "THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA!!!"
Such an incredible feeling. Just the nine of us, standing there at the end of a very long journey and a lot of very hard work, getting to share the pure joy of that moment with the world.
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