Nov. 21, 2011
SEATTLE - Since graduating from Washington in 2002, Mary Whipple has carved herself a career as one of the best coxswains in the world. The Husky was in town recently visiting friends before returning to Princeton to help USRowing prepare for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Whipple has already won two Olympic medals with the USA women's eight, earning silver in Athens before capturing gold at Beijing, in addition to numerous wins at the Rowing World Championships. The Sacramento native has strived to also be a mentor for young coxswains, and when she retires from competition the plan is to get involved into coaching/mentoring full-time. During Whipple's brief stop in Seattle, she spoke briefly with GoHuskies.com about her life and the upcoming Olympics.
GoHuskies.com: Tell us what you've been up to, Mary.
Whipple: I've been training; nothing glamorous. Since the World Championships we've been getting a lot work in, keeping everyone healthy, and gearing up for a solid winter of training.
GoHuskies.com: How was your summer? Obviously the USA boat is in tremendous form after winning at the World Championships in Bled, Slovenia. Why is the boat clicking so well?
Whipple: Bled was fun. We didn't have the greatest race, but we learned a lot from that race. Most proud of how we stuck together, and we trusted each other, and we just backed each up the whole 2,000 meters.
GoHuskies.com: What brings you back to Seattle?
Whipple: I had a week off, and I came in to visit my fiancé Ryan (Murray), who lives in Leavenworth. We're going to spend Thanksgiving in Leavenworth. And I did a little interview with King 5 news, got to hop in a boat filled with Huskies!
GoHuskies.com: Do you still get nostalgic when you swing by Conibear?
Whipple: The best part about today was when Bob told me to take (the boat) around the race course. We pointed it down the Montlake Cut and did some builders. It was really fun seeing Husky Stadium and the Montlake Bridge and getting back on the water in a Pocock Racing Shell. It brought back a lot of memories; it was a lot of fun. The girls definitely humored me. As soon as it started raining, I said I was sorry but I guess they're still used to it here. They only said it was a .5 Husky star day. There's a five point scale, and it didn't even register a one.
GoHuskies.com: What's the plan now for the USA boat in the final run-up to London?
Whipple: The goal now ... volume comes up. I think the most important thing is that everyone stays healthy through training, so there is no interruption. We're doing a lot of small boat work, establishing a hierarchy in the ladder. This is sounding quite familiar to the Husky program. There's not much rocket science to making boats go fast, so it's keep training in small boats, fine-tuning your skills and just staying healthy.
GoHuskies.com: Do you feel this is your last Olympic cycle?
Whipple: I'm excited to say that this is my last Olympic cycle. There's a lot of stuff on my bucket list that I want to get done, besides sitting in a boat. I'm loving being back on the team and making boats go fast. The vibe of the team is very good right now. But there's also some exciting things going on in my life right now. I'm getting married in September up in Leavenworth on Sept. 22. And then, what I want to do for next summer, I really want to create a summer camp specific to coxswains. Possibly the first one will be out of Conibear Shellhouse. The main goal is that when coxswains come, I want to teach them to row, teach them to be more athletic, I want them to be better leaders. For experienced coxswains, have clinics, have roundtable discussions about how to use phrases better, how to layout a race plan, how to self-regulate how to become a better coxswain. It's going to be excited.
GoHuskies.com: So tell us how your blog/website (Ninth Seat) is going?
Whipple: Ninth Seat is going! Constantly have to update it, I'm sorry. It's a good problem to have. There are a lot of email questions that are sitting in my inbox right now. I'm mortified to say how many emails I haven't gotten back to. People want to learn, and I want the Ninth Seat to be a place for coxswains to have a good resource of knowledge.
GoHuskies.com: What are Whipple family get-togethers like when you have a twin sister who coaches at Cal? (Editor's note: Whipple's sister Sarah Puddicome is an assistant coach for UW archrival California)
Whipple: I think our family definitely knows that when Mary and Sarah are talking about rowing again, and we quickly find ourselves alone in a room. But it's awesome having a sister who knows what I'm going through, and we can talk the lingo. She can bounce ideas off me, I can bounce ideas off her ... it's a good sounding board to have.
GoHuskies.com: Are you familiar with the 2012 Olympic course at Eton-Dorney?
Whipple: In 2006 we won and set the world's best time. So we have some good mojo at that course and we're excited to get back on it.
GoHuskies.com: One last question. How has the Husky program help develop rowers at the international level?
Whipple: Right now we're in small boats, and having a solid background like (ex-Husky oarswomen Megan Kalmoe and Adrienne Martelli) have is so valuable. All the U-23 girls that are coming in, it's a short time frame, so if you can have success in the pair, then you will definitely have a leg up. Kerry Simmonds definitely benefited from that, and now she's in our development team. It's nice having a Husky contingency in Princeton.