Speed 5—Esther Lofgren bio - http://www.usrowing.org/News_Media/Athl ... fgren.aspx
Wolf-That last 1000 of the Lucerne World Cup race was amazing. How did that race break out for you and the eight others?
Lofgren: That was definitely one of the most fun sprints I’ve ever had in a race. We had really only been in that boat together for a couple of weeks, and not too many rows in that lineup, so our goals were to keep things simple and just go really, really hard! Our start wasn’t bad, but it obviously put us down to GB and Canada, who are very quick off the start. However, we were prepared for that, and focused on finding our solid base rhythm and speed—those tend to win out in the end!
We executed our race plan very well—every move had us taking seats, every focus had us making effective technical changes. We were still down quite a bit to Canada coming into the last 500, but as we came into our sprint, we could tell that we were moving and gaining speed. I could feel that just feeding back into the energy and adrenaline behind me, and tried to keep the rhythm going to match the speed. With maybe 5 strokes to go, I snuck a peek and saw that we were going through them! I’d say probably half the boat didn’t know we’d won afterwards—it wasn’t until Katelin told us she could see it on the JumboTron that everyone was excited!
Wolf- So you’re in stroke seat, leading a bunch of fresh young talent into the 2010 World Championships. How does being in that seat sit with you? And what is it like to have all that horse power behind you?
Lofgren: I do like stroking! I’ve either been stroke or 6 seat in pretty much every boat I’ve rowed in since I started way back in 1998, and I’ve stroked the US four for the last two WRCs. At the same time, though, there are many other women in the boat who have similar experience in the seat, and who would do an excellent job of leading the crew in some fast races in New Zealand. At the end of the day, I think all of us will be happy just to earn any seat in the boat!
I will say that it is a very different experience stroking this boat in that there are some amazing physiologies in that crew. As I’m sure any of the women stroking any of our competitor’s boats would agree, at this level, there is power and fitness that you just don’t experience at the high school or college level. Your coxswain will call a move or you settle down to base and you just get this flash: Wow, this is FAST.
While there were a lot of new kids in the boat—for four of the women, that was their first trip to Lucerne—having the combined international experience of Susan and Erin in the boat definitely evened things out. While Susan talks a little too much, her input was always spot-on, and it was great having her in seven behind me.
Erin really helped us come together as a crew, making sure we were focused on our competitive goals during practice and racing.
Wolf-Once the 2010 World Championships are done there is only going to be a year and half to the Olympics—not much time at all. Does the late Worlds this year disrupt the training for 2012 at all?
Lofgren-: I guess we’ll see when we get there!
I don’t think it will make a tremendous difference in the four-year training cycle. I am completely unqualified to be spouting opinions on this, but my thought is that if nothing else, all the top competitors are going to be in New Zealand together, so everyone will have the same disruption, if there is any. We’ll also all get the same fitness benefits of two extra months of training before Worlds this year.
The Olympic year normally flies by, so I’m sure it will feel even faster this time around!
Wolf-There appears to be a lot more doubling up in women's events rowing on the international level than in the men’s field. Why do you think this happens?
Lofgren:I know that for our team, one of our big goals for Lucerne was to get as much racing experience as possible, which was one of the reasons we planned on having six of the eight rowers compete in two events, and why all of the scullers raced in both the double and the quad.
As far as doubling up: I think there are basically negligible differences in the training intensities, physiological gifts, and sheer competitive will in female and male elite rowers. However, logistically, men’s events are still much more subscribed to than women’s events, although as global organizations, FISA and the IOC are trying to bring more women into the sport. In Lucerne, for example, if two men wanted to double in the pair and eight, as some of my boatmates did, they would likely race seven times in three days—three times in one day is a lot to ask of any athlete, even a highly-trained one!
It’s also true that men’s rowing is, within-country, generally more competitive than women’s rowing—in the sense that, although there are more Olympic boat class seats for men, there are also more men interested in pursuing the Olympic dream than there are women. If a coach has many highly-trained and highly motivated athletes contending for seats, it’s easier for the coach to produce successful results without making the top athletes double up. As women’s rowing events become more subscribed and competitive, doubling up will be less possible, although athletes like Cracknell and Pinsent will probably choose to continue to do so! At the same time, every athlete—male or female—at the World Cup, World Championships, and Olympics has absolutely busted their butt to be there, and in that sense, I don’t think that women’s events are any less competitive than men’s.
Wolf-Why do you feel the USA women are able to churn out world-class rowers like a machine?
Lofgren- Like I just noted about inter-squad competition, the NCAA system of rowing in this country is the closest thing we have in many women’s sports to one of the talent-search programs that other countries have implemented in public schools. Every fall, there are a handful of future Michelle Guerettes and Anna Mickelson Cummins’ who walk on to their college team with the hope of finding a new sport and maybe the opportunity for a scholarship.
I think that having such a tremendous pool of talent to pull from has certainly helped the US women in the last 10+ years. At the same time, a coach needs to be able to harness that talent and turn it into crews that are internationally competitive, and Tom Terhaar has done that successfully since he began coaching.
While the system isn’t perfect, it is producing some pretty great results for our team. The women’s eight has the limelight of a lot of titles piled up, but it’s also exciting to see US women’s sculling really taking off in the last few years.
Wolf-Are you excited to race the Romanians in NZ?
Lofgren- I hope I get to race against them! Another race against the Canadians would be great, too!
My plan for the next couple of months (our naming date is September 20th) is to keep training here in Princeton and do everything I can to be able to line up against them on Lake Karapiro.