...doesn't stay at the Olympics, it's going up on this blog!
|Just out of the P & G Salon for the Oakley party!|
In all seriousness, everything post-Olympics over in London was pretty amazing. Not as debaucherous as everyone keeps wondering, but an incredible trip, with every single day jam-packed with awesome. The earliest I went to bed after moving into the Olympic Village was 5:15am -- yes, the normal time I wake up for practice back in Princeton. But the Village wasn't a den of craziness. Everyone was incredibly respectful of the fact that most of the athletes there were still competing.
|Found legend Drew Ginn at McDonalds after the Closing Ceremony!|
Only the busy 24-hour McDonalds -- the late-night/early-morning favorite of athletes from EVERY nation -- gave away what we were up to!
|Kyle, me, and our "British family"!|
My first few days were spent with my family and boyfriend, who were able to stay for a bit after the racing. Kyle and I had a great time hanging out with the families who'd hosted him out by Eton and then in London. I've been exchanging letters with the little girls who came to dinner with us after my race... they've inspired me to take on some of the sports I've wanted to try and to reach out to more kids who are excited about rowing and the Olympics. I also got in some sight-seeing around London with my family.
|Found some proper Bobbies to take a photo with!|
|Messing around up in the London Eye!|
My bucket list for the Olympics (after winning, of course!) was: watch April Ross (my high school volleyball teammate and hero) in beach volleyball. Watch Usain Bolt run. Swap kit for Swedish Olympic gear. And fill every single minute with awesome! I was lucky enough to check everything off my list. I got to watch April not only in her semi but also in the USA-USA final, where she and partner Jen Kessy played to a hard-fought silver.
|Beach volleyball gold medal match. Awesome!!!|
Then, sitting a few seats away from the Olympic flame (MAN! that thing is hot!), I got to see Usain win the 200m. And on the very last afternoon, right before closing ceremonies, I tracked down the Swedish team's dorm and made a javelin thrower swap shirts.
|Met Evander Holyfield, fellow Nutri-Grain bar enthusiast, at the USA House!|
|And David Beckham at beach volleyball!|
Of course, there were tons of other awesome moments, too. We met too many celebrities to list. There were the constant awesome moments of grabbing a tray at the dining hall or signing up for something in the Team USA office, right next to athletes who are your heroes. "Okay, be cool, be cool...holy crap, it's Abby Wambach!"
|With Abby and the women's soccer team at an NBC event.|
And then just getting to spend time with my teammates, some of my best friends, without the pressure of practice or competition or another team we needed to make just around the corner. For once, we were free just to spend time with each other and celebrate what we'd accomplished.
|Just after ringing the bell at the NYSE!|
We did several interviews and shows, both in London and when we got back to the US. The highlights were getting to ring the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange -- SO COOL!!! -- and then doing the Today Show in New York.
|With Mary and Moose in NYC!|
After our interview, we got to stick around and cook with Curtis Stone--the dreamy "Take Home Chef" who can make a mean pork belly stir fry. And then, just as we were leaving, one of our media managers came around the corner in a huff--"I just got kicked out of the green room by Lionel Ritchie's entourage!" I put my heels and medal back on, walked back to the green room, and peeked around the corner. Sitting there on the giant sofa, all by himself, was Lionel, who looked up at me, spread his arms and said, beaming, "It's YOU!" Me: "...Yes, it IS me!" (What?!?) The man is amazing, and he told his trainer he wanted to come row with us in San Diego. I can't wait!
|Dancing on the ceiling...eeps!|
Besides the media, we've all been criss-crossing the country to see friends and family that we've been away from for months and years. The local pizza place, Massimos--the one you'd always go to after AYSO soccer games -- had a welcome home dinner for me, and I got to see so many family friends and friends from high school. It was a really special night.
|Thanks for an awesome event, Massimos!!!|
I also got to go speak at my high school rowing program, where there are lots of great kids who are really excited about the Olympics!
|With the Junior Women at NAC!|
It's been so wonderful to be able to share this medal with all of the people who helped me be there to win it, and who've backed me up through this whole journey. From my first host family in Princeton, to my high school friend's family who've cheered me on since I started rowing. There are hundreds of emails from friends I'm still trying to get caught up on, and my mom handed me fistfuls of cards when I got home.
The support this whole journey has been incredible, and I don't feel like this will wind down until I can share this with and thank everyone who's helped me along the way. Thank you for your support and for supporting the dreams of everyone on our team, for believing in all of us long shots. This is our medal.
Follow Esther Lofgren on Twitter: www.twitter.com/estherlofgren