About Mary Whipple

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9th Seat is the brainchild of Mary Whipple, Olympic gold medalist coxswain of the US women’s eight. Here you’ll find informative blog posts, tips and tricks, and opportunities to learn from the best!

The Olympian I Was, Am, and Want to Be: Part I















As the naming date for the London Olympics quickly approaches I find myself thinking back to the previous two naming dates that I’ve been apart of. I’ve realized that I’ve come a long way since my early rowing days at Capital Crew and the University of Washington.  Since I’m training for my third Olympic cycle I’ve decided to break this blog up into three parts as well: Athens, Beijing and moving towards London.

My career as an Olympian shadows that of my friends who have entered into the work world or “real world”.  Young guns trying to prove themselves in a world filled with veterans.  While training for Athens I was the young gun, naïve and ready to take on the world.  I thought since I had success in the college ranks then why shouldn’t I have success on the senior level?

Then reality set in.  I still remember to this day the feeling of getting dropped off the line at my first World Championships.  It was 2001 in Lucerne and we were a boat filled with rookies.  There were a few who had international experience but for the most part we were all representing the US for the first time on the senior level.  The goal was simple, get out and race hard.  We took off with the field for at least 25 strokes until the first important lesson we learned as a team happened.  Never settle.  As soon as we took what most of us learned in college, the “settle” or as I called it, “Settle in two!”, we got left behind.

It was the first of many lessons learned during that World Championships, but I learned to adapt and I made sure that I’d paid attention to how the elite level of racing felt and was executed.  It paid off because the next year we went on to become World Champions.  The most important lesson I learned from the Athens years was how to be relentless as a team. We had our ups and downs during the four years, but we never gave up when some considered we’d might continue down the path of previous US women’s 8+’s by not medaling at the Olympics.  It was that kind of young gun attitude and freshness any new hire brings to the workplace that helped end the drought. We had something to prove to each other and didn’t care what the outside world thought about us.  That kind of determination and trust that we developed in each other helped us fight for that silver medal.

What I’m most proud of from that Olympic cycle was the foundation we laid for the years to come.  Most of the women training for Athens were products of successful collegiate rowing teams.  We all believed in unity and a positive team culture.  Uniting nine individuals with different strengths made us a stronger unit.  We all new our individual roles were valued and important in creating our Athens identity.



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Posted at Tuesday, June 12th, 2012 in: News

2 Responses to “The Olympian I Was, Am, and Want to Be: Part I”

  1. Kate Johnson says:

    One of my favourite pictures Mary and definitely one of my most memorable hugs. xo KJ

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