Team Behind the Team Preps for Rio

As USRowing athletes are preparing to take their first strokes of the 2016 Olympic Games, the team behind the team—parents, fans, friends, and the rowing community—is doing a little preparation of its own. We checked in with a few familiar faces to get the scoop on what they have planned for upcoming rowing competition.

The Regan family prepares for their trip to Rio.

Larry Regan, the father of women’s eight bow-seat Emily Regan (Buffalo, N.Y.), will be in the center of the action, hoping to take in as many rowing races as possible throughout the week.

What are your plans during the rowing events in Rio? Barb and I will see all of the women’s eight races from the grandstands in Rio and as many other events as possible. Our family in Buffalo is planning a watch party for family and friends there. Michigan State is planning one as well in East Lansing for friends and supporters of MSU Rowing and Athletics.

Are there any rituals or race-day traditions? We always wear USRowing gear from Boathouse Sports, and always try and watch the races with the Schmetterlings and the Hacks, our very good friends, as a way to support each other and our kids. We always say a prayer for Emily and all of her teammates that they stay healthy and put in their best race. I’m also still wearing the wristband from the 2016 Lucerne World Cup 2, as a physical reminder of Emily and her teammates. I continue to wear it and will be wearing it in Rio.

NBC researchers Mary Whipple Murray and Yaz Farooq.

Mary Whipple Murray, the three-time U.S. Olympic women’s eight coxswain and two-time Olympic gold medalist is back for Rio, but this time working with NBC Olympics.

Where will you be for the rowing events in Rio? I’ll be the NBC rowing analyst, which will hopefully provide me with the best seat in the house! I’ll be commentating all the men’s and women’s races alongside my play-by-play colleague, Leigh Diffey, and researchers, Yaz and Roger Farooq.

Any rituals or good luck charms that will follow you to Rio? When I competed, I always liked being near our boat and making sure that the tracks were clean and things were tight. It allowed me to hear the noise around the venue and get used to the energy of the day. Now, in my new role as a commentator, I will be more at ease once I get to the venue and get to soak in the energy of the crowd and the races as they unfold throughout the week.

What are you most looking forward to in Rio? I’m looking forward to having to pay attention to all the races. When I was competing, I always tried to tune all the other races out in order to focus on mine. Now it is my job to know what is happening in every race!

Greg and Barb Hack are ready to watch their son, Austin, compete in the U.S. men's eight.

Barb Hack, the mother of men’s eight stroke-seat Austin Hack (Old Lyme, Conn.), will be surrounded by fans this week and dressed for success.

Where will you be for the Olympic rowing events? Our family—Austin’s dad, Greg, Austin’s two sisters, and I—will be watching every race from the FISA grandstand, surrounded by the BEST FANS IN THE WORLD – the Team USA families! My sister and Austin’s two cousins will be cheering wildly from the USOC grandstand. Meanwhile, back home, a town-wide viewing party is being arranged in Old Lyme, Conn., for the final of the men’s eight.

Any pre-race rituals or superstitions? As for superstitions, the athletes have no idea how much effort goes into choosing exactly the right combination of clothing and jewelry items for their races. For me, this means my silver oar necklace and bracelet, my USA blade pendant, a bracelet with 3 x’s (one for each of my children), various other good luck bracelets and a team t-shirt from any of Austin’s races where they’ve medaled. In addition, I now have USA socks and oar earrings from Lori Schmetterling, which I consider to be a good omen coming from the women’s team. Plus, I have an American flag scarf sent by Amy Ojserkis before the Final Qualification Regatta. I had all these things on for that race, so I believe this combination to be the winning one!

Eleanor Logan and her mother, Jennifer Kierstead, with Logan's 6-month-old puppy, Bartleby.

Jennifer Kierstead, the mother of three-time women’s eight Olympian and two-time Olympic gold medalist Eleanor Logan (Boothbay Harbor, Maine), will be watching over the women’s eight mascot (recently featured in Sports Illustrated), Bartleby, and taking in racing from the road.

Where will you be for the Olympic rowing events? A family wedding in Iowa—we’re driving! Actually, we expect to be somewhere in Canada returning to Maine during the final. Coverage may be via the CBC. Her stepfather, Mark, and I decided nearly a year ago to stay in the States this year. Attending the Olympics is arduous and very expensive; each of the two prior Olympics cost a minimum of $10,000 each.

My contribution to Ellie’s third Olympics took place when I drove 18 hours (round trip) to pick up Bartleby, the unofficial women’s eight mascot and brought him back to Maine for what we are calling “summer camp” while Ellie rows in Rio. I’m not too sure who was more sad, Ellie or Bartleby, but life will be good for Bartleby staying with Ellie’s brother-in-law’s parents on a farm in Aroostook County. Definitely a long way from Rio. This did afford me some quality time with Ellie, truly quality time, as in rare, time together before she left. We had dinner together at her place and just hung out.

Any pre-race rituals or superstitions? I have never done anything in terms of a ritual, except pray for Ellie, for the women’s eight, for the entire USRowing team, Team USA, and actually all the Olympic athletes and their families from all countries. Being in the Olympics and attending the Olympics as a spectator and family member is an exceptional experience for everyone.

Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, 82, won gold in the men's eight at the 1956 Olympic Games.

Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, 82, was six-seat in the 1956 U.S. gold medal men’s eight from Yale University. The now-retired surgeon regularly connects with the rowing community via Twitter.

What are your plans for the 2016 Olympic Games? I’m looking forward to watching it on television. At the Melbourne Games, we never had a single television camera on us.

What was it was like to win an Olympic gold medal for the Unites States? We used to go as colleges (my crew was from Yale) and they had something like seven events for rowing. It was a memorable experience. Even today, I haven’t stopped thinking about it. In all my research about reversing heart disease and about my experiences being a combat surgeon in Vietnam, I’m still introduced to people as an Olympic gold medalist.

From one Olympian to another: I wish the team every chance for success. They’re going to lay it all out on the line. I want them to know that all of us stand behind them, and we are very proud.

How will YOU watch the 2016 Olympic Games? Let us know! Tweet @usrowing using hashtag #RowToRio.

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