Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Repechage Details

Monday night - Tuesday morning, July 30 - 31

Restless, little sleep night. About 4 AM the rain started pelting away outside the window so I became preoccupied with the best way to stay semi-dry at the race course. A bit more drifting in and out of a doze and it was time to get up - 5 AM. Did you ever notice how fast time goes very early in the morning? Stumbled around making sure I had the tickets, the map, rain parka, portable umbrella, chapstick (next to the tickets, the most important) and as much kleenex as I could find.
The boys made it at 6 and our trusty cab service loaded us in for the brief trip to Clapton Junction Station. We've become quite knowledgeable "New entrance, please" and learned through nephew Will and his fiance to ignore the ticket lady and simply walk through the turnstiles if they were open. The previous day, we ended up paying 9 pounds each plus our free transportation tickets because Eton Dorney is outside the 9 London zones. So we sailed through the open stiles (the ticket lady's window was down, apparently she overslept). We caught the 6:38 train to Windsor and everyone had seats this time. The half hour earlier train was far less crowded as someone advised us the previous day. The rain was sporadic, with a bit of sun trying desperately to fight through the clouds.
About an hour later, the train pulled into Windsor and we went immediately to the pub across the station for breakfast. As I mentioned, I think in an earlier post, the bread here is awesome. Julia Child would be pleased (I think she once said American white bread tasted as though it was made of Kleenex). We made it to our handicapped shuttle around 8:10 and took off with a British couple and an Asian family.

We chatted with the Brits who, of course, were over the moon about Katherine Grainger, for good reason. They were lovely about wishing Margot luck. It's not as if there is one person we meet that we refrain from telling about Margot. They promised they would remember her name and cheer her on.

We got to the course and Tom, who is the best of pushers, got us through security, up and down the bridge (there's a lift), and to the stands. This time we decided to take the elevator to the wheelchair access area in the stands. Nate was a little worried about my stair tolerance. So, except for the extremely loud speakers that were placed at intervals along our railing, we had a very comfortable front seat view of the course.

I was worried about not being anywhere near Sarah's mom and dad. I turned around and, good grief talk about coincidences, they were right behind us in the section above our little balcony.

The rain continued to hold off and the water was almost as smooth as glass. I believe there was a tailwind for the rowers. Things like the direction of the wind certainly affect the times, but since all the rowers are in the same place at the same time, it's shouldn't be a factor in their comparative performances.

Then the pre-race ritual of praying for her success, and then asking God to forgive me for praying about something so trivial relative to world peace, to just praying that she will do her best and be happy about her performance. Lots of thank you prayers for my wonderful family and friends and being able to be there. And amidst it, random thoughts of "yes, she and Sarah can do this" to "good grief, these other boats are so good" and the like mingle with the ongoing theme of "Keep her strong and focused. Don't let her be afraid. She's a pro. Help them to calm their nerves and do their thing."

If someone tries to talk to me during that time, I'm likely to be very grumpy. I can't think of anything except the upcoming race. The races beforehand are a welcome distraction, but I am waiting for "Women's Double Sculls" to display on the jumbotron in front of me.

Finally, there is no more waiting. The screen display appears,  I see a close up of the starters. They are sure to mispronouce Margot's first or last name, and also do a good job botching Sarah's last name. I am straining to get a look at her face -- is she looking fierce and focused? Yes.

Waiting... waiting... and they're off... looks like a good start and then, what? The boat in Lane 2 seems to be at an angle. The announcements begin. False start. Seemed to be equipment failure rather than one of the boats. For about half a second, I worried that it would rattle her. And then I thought "she is a pro," no problem.

Nate thought she looked ticked off in the next picture they showed, I just thought she looked fiercer and more focused. "False start? HA! I laugh in your face!"

After what seemed like half an hour, and was I think at least 5 minutes, the race started again, with a flag drop.

Again, they got out to a good start. The Chinese popped out in the lead and continued to hold it throughout the race. They can certainly maintain an unholy stroke rate for a long time. And the battle was on with the rest of the boats. By the time Mar and Sarah seemed to have captured third place, we were all screaming so loud the non-USA fans behind us just stayed still out of respect (and they weren't from one of the countries competing). I knew Margot felt she had missed a call during the heat and also knew she wouldn't let that happen again. I knew they hadn't pushed it yet, and you could see it when they did. They just surged ahead and although it's tough to see who is ahead even when you have a big screen and even when they are in front of you, it was clear that they were going to do it. They were going to get 2nd place and that chance for a medal. And for a few seconds at the very end, it looked like it was possible for them to pass the Chinese... Margot said the Chinese rowers were about ready to drop and that if they'd had 50 more meters they would have had them.

What struck me was that in that race and in the ending, although Margot may think it wasn't pretty, Margot and Sarah looked confident and competent. It wasn't a question of if they could make it, it was when they would make it happen.

Family celebration time and then over to Sarah's mom for a good old mom hug and cry. I know dad's and brothers and sisters love their daughters and sisters, but there is something special between mothers and daughters, at least for Mar and I, and I think for Sarah and her mom too. We have heard it all from the beginning. We have ached for their sorrows and been delirious with joy when they are happy. We are each others' go to person emotionally.

We raced to get down the elevator so we could stand behind our Federation stands and watch them come down the warm up/cool down "river" behind our stands. Again, a lot of screaming ourselves hoarse with Sarah's family. Then back up to watch a bit more rowing and then leaving because we couldn't think about anything other than meeting her at the Family tent.

Took a while, but seeing their faces when they arrived at the tent was just the BEST BEST feeling in the world. I told Margot that of course I want them to medal, want Friday's race to be awesome, but nothing can take away from the joy of this rep, the joy of seeing them do what they needed to do. Matt wasn't too happy!!! He said it's been about this race since they qualified the boat -- that this was the point they were working toward, making the A final possible.

The three of them made it happen and here's hoping there's a medal in the offing for them on Friday!

PS. We ran into the British couple at the train station when we arrived back at Clapham Junction and they were delighted for Margot (and us).

Row2k posted a raft of wonderful pictures. Here are just a few. If you are interested in purchasing any photos of any of the Olympic rowers, check out the Row2k site. You can click any photo in the blog to increase size.

In third, behind the Chinese and the Czechs (top left here) - about to make their move!

Overtaking the Czechs - worthy competitors indeed! 
Creeping up on the Chinese - also worthy competitors...

Over the finish line and into the A Finals

Sarah's Dad (red cap) and Mom (camera far right)!!!

Ouch, ouch, ouch, darn it, OUCH!

Pain is meaningless -- WE MADE IT!

1 comment:

Neil Mehta said...

Thanks for the amazing blog. Wish Margot and Sarah all the best for the A finals. I have been telling everyone I know to send positive thoughts their way. Am proud to say that I got a chance to meet Mar f2f. Take care!