Two weeks ago, the U.S. men's 8+ raced in Lucerne, Switzerland at the final Olympic qualification regatta. After failing to qualify for the 2012 Olympics the previous summer, the boat--and qualification--became huge priorities. In Lucerne, they raced to a gold medal, earning one of the few remaining spots in their category.
Yesterday, they returned to Oakland to continue training for their next challenge--the Olympics.
Rowing on the same water as and sharing a boathouse with Olympians is not new to me: both the men and the women trained in Princeton for much of my time there. In fact, we shared a locker room with the women who won gold in 2008. And yet, it seems that only now, as I try to earn myself a spot amongst these athletes, do I realize what they have accomplished.
Spending most of my time in Princeton rowing as an openweight, I never had any hope of competing with the women I saw in USRowing gear. At 5'7", I was two inches shorter than the minimum height for consideration and four inches shorter than most of the athletes that were asked to try out.
I never considered that it was more than height and pure talent that got these women to the camp--it was hundreds of hours of training, extra erg tests, blisters, sore muscles and a lot of heart. Now that I have subjected myself to just four weeks of the same, I am in awe of what these athletes have done. I am blessed with the near perfect size for lightweight rowing, and yet size and talent will not be enough.
As I watch the Olympics this year, I have a new appreciation for what the athletes have truly accomplished. While they are all blessed with an extraordinary amount of talent, they have all also earned their places, through blood, sweat and tears. The world is too big of a place to get to the top on talent alone.