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 II


Today is the naming date for the London Olympics.  There are six hours left until the names have to be officially turned in.  Olympic selection is brutal.  As I said in part one of this three-part blog series, each blog is about the different Olympic cycles I have participated in; Athens, Beijing, and London.  I remember the naming date for Beijing well.  The morning of it we were seat racing for the final position in the boat.  We all had our roles to do regardless if we were directly getting switched.  Each one of us wanted the fastest line up, period.  It’s moments like seat racing for final Olympic selection that brings out a level of commitment to the process and professionalism.


For me, I knew what was at stake because of my experience from Athens.  I knew that I needed to be consistent with my calls emotionally and that the stroke rate and rhythm needed to be accurate between all pieces.  That kind of professionalism allowed us to find the right combination of athletes for the Beijing Olympics. We were being true to the process.  That combination brought six young guns and three veterans together.  Caryn, Anna and I brought the characteristics and foundation from the Athens Olympic cycle and the young guns picked up on that attitude and ran away with it.  That sense of motivating each other to build a level of excitement and trust was a special team dynamic.  As one of the leaders in that boat I made sure the mix of experienced and rookie attitude formed into one goal that I communicated to them the whole way down the race course.


The Beijing cycle shaped me into the Olympian I am today.  It gave me the experience to confidently say that success is about the journey and not ultimately about the destination.  Having that Olympic Gold medal represents more to me now than just winning a race. When I look at my Beijing medal I see more than Gold, I remember every step of the journey that it took to get to the middle of the podium. I get it now when people say that they are excited to go to work every day.  Or that they can’t believe they get paid to do the job that they do.  Well, I might not be getting paid wages in that regard, but I can’t believe I have been given the opportunities that I have had through the sport of rowing.  Now as an Olympian I get to share those experiences of leadership, teamwork and motivations to people from all walks of life.


The best memory from Beijing that will stay forever with me is the excitement I had to race with my teammates on the day of the final.  We weren’t afraid to execute the race we knew we had in us.  There were plenty of nerves, but the kind that were more out of anticipation.  The feeling of wanting to be no where else but at that start line with 8 other women you completely had faith in will never leave me.


Tonight the nominations will be submitted for the 2012 Olympic Rowing Team and by tomorrow the athletes nominated will finally be able to answer the question they have been dodging for four years, “Are you going to race in the Olympics?” Tomorrow their answer will be, “YES, I am going to compete in the Olympics!”


Good Luck to all the US rowers fighting for their Olympic dream!







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Posted at Monday, June 25th, 2012 in: News

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

  1. David R. Hill says:

    I’m a 65 year-old coxswain (we don’t die, we just fade away) who used a fiberboard megaphone in the mid-1960s at Cornell (BMA!!).

    Just writing to congratulate you and my fellow Mainer Ellie Logan and the whole team for another great victory!

    Well done! And thanks for starting this website. Not everybody realizes that when a race is won or lost by a few feet or a few inches that a straight course makes all the difference. Why row a 2001 meter race when you can do it in 2000?

    Thanks for bringing pride to America and American rowing!

  2. Cherrie McKenzie says:

    Well done and well done. To see that boat glide across the water and yet knowing all the effort that it requires is a thing of beauty (and this from a cyclist)! You guys were great!

  3. Caitlin says:

    You did an absolutely beautiful job guiding your girls to that gold! I feel that i owe so much of what my coxing ability and style is today to you! I have dozens of your race recordings and i cant even attempt to explain how your hard work helped push me to in turn become the best cox i could be for my girls. Thank you!

  4. Rosemarie says:

    Hello, every time i used to check web site posts here early in the daylight, as i like to find out more and more.

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