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Megan Kalmoe Blogs From China
Release: 08/12/2008
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Aug. 12, 2008

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Megan Kalmoe Blog
Aug. 11, 2008

Ni hao, Husky fans:

Well, Day 1 of racing has come and gone at the Shunyi Olympic Rowing Park. Yesterday was hot and heavy to say the least, with visibility back down to a minimum and humidity that kept us totally drenched during our time outside. While I can't say one way or the other on the quality of the air, the humidity does present some real challenges beyond the typical levels of sit-and-sweat discomfort for us scullers who have to maintain control of an oar in each hand. If and when the oar grips get slippery with sweat, unlike our sweep counterparts we do not have the luxury of sneaking an odd hand off the oar for a quick wipe. It can be difficult just to hang on at times, let alone race an all out 2k. Ellen and I have incorporated some matching sweatbands into our uniform that not only look sharp, but do help with the humid, sweaty grip problem...sort of. As far as the heat goes, it didn't really hit me until after the racing was done. We were issued some serious-looking ice vests from Nike that help with the cool-down process, though I don't personally prefer the Robocop look while paddling around the cool-down area.

Yesterday was a blast. It was a lot of serious work too and there's certainly more of that to come, but getting my first Olympic race under my belt was quite an experience and definitely had its memorable moments that are going to stick with me. We started off the afternoon with a quick warm up run during which we were greeted with cheers from the grandstands and got to share the course-side path with five inflatable Fuwas (the "Friendlies" who are the 2008 Olympic mascots). I was really surprised to see how many people had turned out just for the preliminary heats in the small boat events--considerably more than had showed up for any of our other events this season. Then as we were launching for our warm up we had a few moments to wonder what was causing the enormous cloud of billowing black smoke pouring across the race course toward the grandstands (it turns out it was a mechanical fire due to a faulty generator). But our pondering of the smoke was cut short by an official on the dock reprimanding us for not having matching socks. Apparently this is a new rule just for this event thanks to the nifty overhead zipline camera that takes close-up aerial shots of the racing crews near the finish line. Guess which items are now taking priority in the laundry queue...

Probably the most notoriously memorable moment from yesterday was our timing to the start line which was...not ideal. Remember how in my last post I said my job in bow seat was to get us to the start line safely and on time? Well, let's just say that yesterday we cut it a little close. FISA rules that crews must be locked on to their stake boats no later than two minutes before start time--traditionally that means that crews show up at the start area with around five minutes to go, in order to have plenty of time to get oriented in the lane, get comfortable, take a look around, get pointed and "relax" (yeah right). Well, due to a small error in judgment on my part, Ellen and I came roaring onto the course with the rower's equivalent of squealing tires, spun around in our lane and locked on with just three minutes to go. I don't know who was more stressed out about it, us or our coach. The good news was, that with less time to sit still at the starting line, we didn't have any time to build up our nerves before we were polled and started for our first Olympic race.

We drew a very solid heat for our first race. We were lined up next to our friends from Germany, Christiane Huth and Annekatrin Thiele who we raced in Munich and Lucerne earlier this season; the doubles from the Ukraine and Romania; and the Evers-Swindell Twins from New Zealand (defending Olympic Champions, three-time World Champions and current World Record Holders). But just like any other race, it's not who you have been--it's who you are now. And as it turned out, we're contenders. We didn't win our heat race yesterday, but we executed our race plan and felt really good about what we accomplished as a first step toward the Olympic final. We were able to come away from our race with a better idea of what we can focus on for improvement in tomorrow's repechage. It was awesome to come into the last 250m of the race to loud chants of "U-S-A! U-S-A!"--I can only imagine how spectacular the crowd and resulting energy level will be for the final on the 16th.

I've been bumming around the hotel today eagerly anticipating results from the big boat events via internet feed. As much as I love being a rowing spectator, I'm glad that I decided to stay put today as we've been experiencing a pretty steady downpour for the past hour or so which has actually delayed the men's and women's eight heats. I can't imagine it's good for the nerves to delay the onset of the first race, but at least it's considerably cooler this afternoon than it was yesterday, and with a whipping tailwind to boot.



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