March 15, 2010

MAINERS STRIKE GOLD

MIKE LOWE

— By

Erin Cafaro, Lindsay Shoop, Anna Goodale, Elle Logan, Anne Cummins, Susan Francia, Caroline Lind, Caryn Davies, Mary Whipple
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Erin Cafaro, Lindsay Shoop, Anna Goodale, Elle Logan, Anne Cummins, Susan Francia, Caroline Lind, Caryn Davies, Mary Whipple

AP

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From left, USA's Erin Cafaro, Lindsay Shoop, Anna Goodale, Elle Logan, Anne Cummins, Susan Francia, Caroline Lind, Caryn Davies and coxswain Mary Whippleat react after capturing the gold in the Women's eight final the Beijing 2008 Olympics in Beijing, Sunday, Aug. 17, 2008. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

AP

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Staff Writer

BEIJING — They crossed the finish line -- victorious -- and Elle Logan wasn't sure what to do.

So she started slapping the water with her left hand.

Anna Goodale, one seat behind Logan, simply collapsed backward in her seat.

''At the end of the race, you have about 30 seconds of sheer elation and total joy until the absolute pain hits and then you have to collapse because you can't stand up, you can't scream,'' Goodale said. ''You're totally exhausted.''

And in this case, totally stoked.

Camden's Goodale and Boothbay Harbor's Logan, the third and fourth seats on the U.S. women's eight crew, struck gold Sunday evening.

Rowing in perfect conditions -- a gray sky, slight breeze and calm water -- the United States won the women's eight in dominating fashion at the Shunyi Rowing-Canoeing Park. Taking the lead on the first strokes of the race, the rowers methodically built a seven-seat lead that translated into a stunningly easy victory -- the first U.S. gold medal in the 2,000-meter event since 1984.

''I would say from the first stroke we just had the utmost confidence in each other,'' Goodale said. ''We felt like we could win. We were all there in it together, and it's an incredible feeling when your dreams come true.''

The Americans crossed the finish line in 6 minutes, 5.34 seconds, nearly two seconds ahead of the Netherlands (6:07.22), which stunned three-time defending Olympic champion Romania (6:07.25) for the silver.

Logan, only 20 and in her first year with the women's eight, was not sure what to make of it at first.

''We crossed the finish line and I told Anna, 'I've never felt like this before, ' '' Logan said. ''I don't know what this feeling is.''

Goodale, who was part of the U.S. back-to-back world championships in 2006 and 2007, knew: ''It's gold,'' she told Logan.

''Yeah,'' said Logan, the smile spreading across her face. ''It's gold.''

Portland's Wyatt Allen helped the U.S. men's eight to a bronze medal Sunday. In their 2,000-meter race, the Americans had the best final 500 meters of the day and nearly caught Great Britain for the silver.

Favored Canada, with Bates College grad Andrew Byrnes in the third seat, won the gold in 5:23.89. Great Britain was second at 5:25.11 and the United States third at 5:25.34.

The United States was the defending Olympic champion, meaning Allen won a gold and a bronze in two Olympic Games.

''You certainly can't complain about walking away with a medal,'' Allen said.

And as he came off the dock and into the mixed zone to speak to reporters, Allen had one question first: ''Did the women win?''

It was an amazing feat for the women, who won silver in the 2004 Athens Olympics and then spent the last four years putting together a strong, talented, hungry crew.

''They're real strong and very focused on what they have to do,'' Coach Tom Terhaar said. ''And they're very professional, probably as professional as any group I've ever had to work with.

''Plus, they have no fear. They came down to the boathouse smiling, which was a good sign.''

They rowed their race, they said, and never let up.

''We got to the thousand (meter mark) and we were ahead,'' Logan said, ''So we said, 'OK, let's keep it going.' ''

Logan, who began rowing just five years ago, was one of the final pieces. Strong and willing to work, she fit in nicely with the veterans.

''I feel very fortunate,'' she said. ''I'm with the best rowers in the world, and I've really learned how to row. It's just amazing.''

The women will now get to enjoy the Olympics, having been sequestered in training and in their hotel since arriving nearly two weeks ago. ''I'm looking forward to celebrating,'' Goodale said.

It's possible that both she and Logan will be in London in four years to try to defend their Olympic gold. Both will see what direction life takes them.

Logan is going to return to Stanford for her studies. Goodale, 25, wants to get back to her art. She finished illustrating a children's book just days before leaving for Beijing.

The 29-year-old Allen, meanwhile, is going in another direction, and it likely won't include a third Olympic Games.

''This is it for a couple of years,'' he said after his race. ''You never say never but I've had a blessed career. I just need to take some time off.

''I'll work, try something different, maybe step away from rowing for a couple of years. I've been at the national team training center since 2001. It'll be nice to try something new.''

Rowing is not a mainstream sport in Maine. Outside of a couple of clubs, few high schools offer it to students. But now Maine has helped produce three gold medals and a bronze in rowing in the last two Olympic Games.

Asked if this success might spur new interest in Maine, Goodale said she hoped it would do more than that.

''I hope that all the work that we put in inspires a lot of people, not only in Maine but throughout the country,'' she said. ''It's been an incredible journey. I realize having your dream come true takes a lot of hard work and amazing support. But it's nice to know you can do it.''

Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at:

mlowe@pressherald.com

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