Posts Tagged ‘ usa rowing ’

What It’s Like to Watch Your Daughter Win a Gold Medal

Monday, August 6th, 2012

Ellie Logan GoldThis post was written by Jennifer Kierstead, the mother of Olympic gold medalist Eleanor (Ellie) Logan who is going for her second gold medal in London with the US Olympic Rowing Women’s 8+boat. Based in Maine, Jennifer is a freelance writer and President of Jennifer Kierstead Consulting. She helps nonprofits and technical small businesses prepare grant proposals to support their work.

This morning dawns grey and misty, with high humidity. Canadian geese gather on the Thames outside of our B & B, The Weir View House, in Pangbourne, a small town west of London.

Ellie won her second Olympic gold medal rowing in the Women’s eight yesterday. I am still too jazzed to sleep after waking at 4, so I set up my computer in the breakfast room, check Facebook, and read various accounts of the race. This quote in The Huffington Post by seasoned cox Mary Whipple captures a theme expressed by Ellie and other rowers throughout the week. Before the race, Mary said, “….I just told them to breathe and enjoy the moment. Feel each stroke. Be present. And we were present—the whole time. It was magical.”

During a race, the petite cox in the stern of the boat is closer to the rowers than any of us; she’s the only one facing forward, not rowing, but steering, strategizing, checking out the competition, and encouraging the rowers. Her remark makes me wonder about the mysterious connection between mothers and children at moments like these. The night before the race, in a brief Skype moment with Ellie, she told me that they were just trying to be calm.

I decided that the best help I could be would be to remain calm with her, and with the team. People asked, “Aren’t you excited?” Yes, of course, but also no—I prayed for the well-being of the rowers and felt very calm and centered in the stands; I didn’t cry, unlike Beijing when I wept my way through most of it.

In the four years prior to the Olympics, these young women train everyday but Sunday, even during brief holidays– what’s different this time is that all that training culminates in minutes and seconds of racing in front of 30,000 people. What happens during that brief time reflects everything that has happened in the years before. For Ellie, it meant finishing her undergraduate degree at Stanford. Even though she was on the college team, it meant supplementing her training at Stanford to try not to lose the national-level of fitness attained when training for Beijing. It meant, like so many athletes, not having a normal life: just days off for holidays, with no lapse in training, and virtual “lockdown” in terms of a personal life.

She views rowing as work, as a job: it’s how she earned her way through Stanford, through a full NCAA scholarship, and it’s how she’s transitioning now to the rest of her life.

Nothing is taken for granted. I listened as the announcer yesterday found it surprising that the eight hadn’t taken more of a lead against the Canadians, as if the team expected to. That sounded like complete hokum to me. Although called a “machine” during their dominating heat, this eight doesn’t underestimate the competition. They focus on making their race the best possible race for them. They race their hearts out.

It’s assumed that I’m proud of my daughter. Of course! But in this team sport, I’m also proud of all of them and in awe of the sacrifices they’ve made and experienced along the way to reach Olympic gold.

And just now, I experience an awesome surprise—Ellie walking in to the breakfast room of my B & B, while I write this–tall, fit, her legs aching, gold medal stuffed into her pocket. This time I cry. I thought she was miles away, and that I wouldn’t see her again until September, if then, but she took a train from Windsor and found me. It’s only 7 a.m., she’s due back at the athletes’ village by 9. We only have a few minutes. The race wasn’t pretty, Ellie says. She rowed harder yesterday than she ever has in her life, she says. Here I am, without make-up, bleary-eyed, my shirt inside out, with my daughter. “Hold the gold medal,” she says. I do, while holding tightly on to her. I love her. Then, with her train on its way, I let go.

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The Emotions of Watching Your Child Compete in The Olympics

Monday, July 30th, 2012

This post was written by Jennifer Kierstead, the mother of Olympic gold medalist Eleanor (Ellie) Logan who is going for her second gold medal in London with the US Olympic Rowing Women’s 8+boat. Based in Maine, Jennifer is a freelance writer and President of Jennifer Kierstead Consulting. She helps nonprofits and technical small businesses prepare grant proposals to support their work.

Not only was rain predicted for this day of heats at the rowing racecourse west of London, but hail!

The sun is bright but we wear many layers and bring umbrellas for the trek to Eton Dorney, near Windsor. We walk over a mile from the entry to the stands while the skies glower and it keeps getting darker.

The races proceed nonstop from 9:30 a.m., one heat after another: the men’s double sculls, the men’s light 4’s, the men’s single sculls, the women’s single sculls, the women’s lightweight double sculls, and the men’s lightweight double sculls.  It rains, briefly, then the dark clouds split and skirt the course. At 11:50, the women’s eight heats begin (see picture).

We aren’t seated in the family and friends section across the water, rather, we’re sitting in the stands opposite with our friends from Wisconsin, Nick and Diane Somers, and a crowd of 20,000-some people from all over Great Britain and the world. Rowing is one of the most popular sports at the Olympics, to match the sport’s long history and popularity in England. The Englishwoman seated behind me, learning of my daughter’s presence on the W-8, hands me a biscuit, quietly leans over and says, “Because your daughter is on the 8, I’m rooting for her.”

We talk about the “spirit of the games”—“Isn’t this the way it should be?” I say, and then, suddenly, out of nowhere just tear up, thinking of the devastating battles in Syria, and how frightening that must be for the children, women and men in those areas.  Wars and crimes against humanity don’t cease with the Games.

Just three years after WWII, London hosted the Olympics, as it was itself recovering from the devastation of war.  My thoughts return to the race before me at the venerable Eton College.

My daughter Eleanor (“Ellie”) Logan is with her teammates in the first of two heats. They dominate their race from the start, well ahead of Great Britain, Germany, and Australia. This is my first glimpse of Ellie, who is kept apart from family, friends and media prior to their final. In Beijing, we were able to see her after her heat—not this time. I magnify the image I take of her and her teammates on the eight, their muscles rippling.

They are rowing smoothly and powerfully. The British commentator refers to them as “the American machine.”  “Several gold medalists are on this boat,” he says, and I know one of them is my daughter.

It’s an astounding feeling. I’m her mother, yes, but Ellie’s phenomenal athletic ability, discipline, and drive is all coming from her.  She inherited my long arms and her father’s height, but that doesn’t explain what really propels her. Ellie was looking for a sport in which to excel from a very young age.  She tried and excelled in swimming and basketball, from age eight on, before being introduced to rowing in high school. Rowing is where it all came together for her, in an extraordinary way.

The first heat concludes and boats in the second heat start down the course, visible only via the Jumbotron screens until they come within range of the stands. Canada wins the second heat and proceeds directly to the final with the U.S.  All the other teams will race again on July 31 for a place in the final on August 2.

I won’t see Ellie before then. I’m thinking of her, though, as I watch the streams of people walk by me. They were all here today because they love the sport of rowing, or, in some cases, the rowers themselves.    Countless others watched this heat around the world. In the end, only one of these people can say she is Ellie’s mother. I’m her mom and I’m proud of her.

I pick up my raincoat, join my husband and friends, and begin the long walk back to the shuttle. Within an hour, the skies open and it pours.

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