Blue Skies and Calm Water – For Now
July 23, 2012
LONDON – For nearly four months, rain has poured down on London and the 2012 Olympic Games venues, breaking the record for the most rainfall between April and June all the way back to 1910.
At Eton Dorney, 33 miles from the Olympic Park in London where rowing will be contested, the rain has been accompanied by wind, making the course more like an angry ocean surrounded by a sea of mud.
It didn’t stop Olympic organizers from erecting the blue and white grandstands on both sides of the course and the pointed, medieval-like athlete support tents around the state-of-the-art boathouse, or from putting in an asphalt road where there had once been a dirt path running around the perimeter of the complex.
The games will go on.
But today, four days before the opening ceremony and five days before the first heats of rowing are run, the skies are crystal clear blue, the wind calm, the water flat and enticing, and the athletes are taking it all in.
“It’s been great,” said Sarah Trowbridge (Guilford, Conn.), who will be rowing in the women’s double. “The weather has been great and the team is all here. Everyone has flown in and we’re pumped.”
This is the first Olympics for Trowbridge, a five-time member of the national team. It’s the same for Gevvie Stone (Newton, Mass.), who will be rowing in the women’s single sculls.
“It’s been incredible so far,” Stone said. “It’s hard to believe it’s only been four days since we arrived. So much has happened. The first day was just processing and accreditation and getting used to the village and getting used to the course.”
There is a lot to get used to and routines to build.
The rower’s athlete village is just starting to fill up and then there are the bus routes and schedules to get down. Even though every rowing course is 2,000-meters of buoyed water, each has its own unique characteristics.
And then there are the grandstands that line both sides of the course from 1,500-meters to the finish line and have a seating capacity of 25,000.
They are sold out. This is England after all, and they lay claim to the sport of rowing the way Canadians claim ice hockey – even though Canada’s national sport is actually lacrosse.
“A master rower I train with lives in Henley and he bicycled over to look at the stands and he told me it’s going to be like rowing into Gillette Stadium (home to the New England Patriots in Foxborough, Mass.) “Well maybe not quiet as big as Gillette Stadium,” Stone said. “But if those stands are full, it’s going to be the biggest crowed I’ve rowed in front of.”
This the biggest stage Stone has even graced. She remembers the days of high school rowing in Boston on the Charles River when it was just a few parents and how the crowds gradually grew through college, the World Rowing Under 23 Championships to last summer when she rowed in the 2011 World Rowing Championships.
“It’s been a lot of years, a lot of strokes to get here,” she said. “It’s an amazing experience and I do try to separate the experience and the rowing, slightly. If I build it up in my head too much that this is the Olympics, this is the biggest stage, before my race, it could get in the way of my performance.
“I’m trying to get down the course from start to finish as fast as possible when it comes to racing. And I think it’s going to be harder when the crowd gets here. So, for now, I’m trying to savor it when I’m on land, but in the water I’m focusing on rowing. Head in the boat.”
It has been the case for all the U.S. athletes here today. The weather is beautiful, the only pressure is internal and the strokes are for practice. There is no winning or losing, not until Saturday, when the heats will begin for the men’s eight, the women’s quadruple sculls, the lightweight men’s four and the women’s pair.
“”It’s great, it’s awesome,” said Will Miller (Duxbury, Mass.) who is rowing in the men’s eight. The crew arrived Friday and it was among the last of the 12 boat contingent to get here. The men’s four and quadruple sculls arrived Sunday.
“Everybody, all the volunteers have been super nice. It’s a lot of excitement, just getting ready to race. We’re working hard just trying to make sure we have a good race Saturday. It’s been great. We’re just focusing on the race because we know what’s coming.”
For complete coverage of the 2012 Olympic Games in London, visit http://www.usrowing.org/Pressbox/2012Olympics.aspx
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