The U.S. women’s eight, coxed by former University of Washington standout Mary Whipple, defeated Canada by nearly two seconds to win the Olympic gold medal in London Thursday on Dorney Lake. For Whipple, a 2002 UW graduate, it marked her second gold in the eight, following Beijing in 2008, and her third overall Olympic medal.
Whipple’s shell, undefeated for six years, finished in 6:10.59 after leading from start to finish. Canada won the silver in 6:12.06. The Netherlands claimed bronze.
“Coming off the line, I felt so much,” Whipple said. “And then when we took our stride, that was beautiful. We were a little high and I just told them to breathe and enjoy the moment. Feel each stroke. Be present. And we were present — the whole time.”
In addition to Whipple, who won a silver medal in Athens in 2004, the winning shell included Erin Cafaro, Susan Francia, Esther Lofgren, Taylor Ritzel, Meghan Musnicki, Eleanor Logan, Caroline Lind and Caryn Davies.
“That is an American dynasty, baby,” said U.S. crewmember Francia, close to tears as she collected her medal on the pontoon at Dorney Lake. “It’s just so special.”
Whipple is the first rower with connections to the state to win three Olympic medals, the first to medal in three consecutive Olympics, and the second to win a pair of golds (also Richard Wailes, 1956, 1960).
Whipple is the eighth athlete with state connections to win two career golds, following Wailes, swimmer Kaye Hall (1968), synchronized swimmer Tracie Ruiz (1984), volleyball player David Saunders (1984, 1988), basketball player John Stockton (1992, 1996), swimmer Megan Quann Jendrick (2000) and swimmer Nathan Adrian (2008, 2012).
Whipple is also the eighth to win three career medals of any kind, following swimmer Helene Madison (3 gold), swimmer Jack Medica (1 gold, 2 silver), swimmer Mary Wayte (1 gold, 1 silver, 1 bronze), Ruiz (2 gold, 1 silver), Jendrick (2 gold, 1 silver), swimmer Margaret Hoelser (2 silver, 1 bronze) and Adrian (2 gold, 1 silver).
Adrian has won one gold and one silver in London. He captured the 100-meter freestyle Wednesday, winning by .01 seconds.
Fittingly, after the race, Whipple received the biggest cheer from the crowd as the medals were handed out. Per rowing custom, her teammates threw her in the lake.
“It was magical,” said Whipple, who has been the national team cox since 2003.
In large part because of Whipple, the USA has now won the eight in consecutive Olympics for the first time. The only other time the USA won the eight was in 1984 in Los Angeles with a shell containing three ex-Huskies and coached by UW rowing director Bob Ernst.
Although the USA eight hasn’t lost in six years, many figured Canada capable of pulling an upset. At a recent World Cup regatta in Lucerne, Switzerland, Whipple and her teammates defeated the Canadians by just three hundredths of a second. But the Americans were never out of the lead Thursday.
Medals By Washingtonians at 2012 Olympic Games
|8/1||Nathan Adrian||Swim||100 free||Bremerton||Gold|
|7/29||Nathan Adrian||Swim||4×100 relay||Bremerton||Silver|
|7/30||Marti Malloy||Judo||57 KG||Oak Harbor||Bronze|
|8/1||Megan Kalmoe||Rowing||Quad Sculls||UW||Bronze|
|8/1||Adrienne Martelli||Rowing||Quad Sculls||UW||Bronze|