November 18, 2013

Maine's Eleanor Logan would row it alone in Rio

The Boothbay Harbor native downsizes from women’s eight to singles.

By Mike Lowe mlowe@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Eleanor Logan’s place among Maine’s Olympic elite is already secured.

click image to enlarge

Previous Summer Olympics found Eleanor Logan working with seven teammates, but she’s preparing to row it alone come 2016.

Courtesy U.S. Rowing

Having won gold medals with the U.S. women’s eight crew in both 2008 (Beijing) and 2012 (London), Logan is one of two Mainers to have won multiple golds in the Summer Olympics. Portland’s Ian Crocker has won three golds in the 400 medley swim relay.

Logan, from Boothbay Harbor, wants more. So she is challenging herself like never before.

Logan made the switch last year from the women’s eight to the singles sculling, a transition that is causing her to relearn everything she thought she knew about rowing.

“The eight boat is the ultimate team sport,” said Logan. “The nine of you (the eight rowers plus the coxswain) working together, and I loved it. The single is the ultimate solo sport.

“That’s the biggest challenge.”

The 25-year-old Logan is making this switch with an eye on Rio de Janiero and the 2016 Summer Olympics. No U.S. woman has ever won Olympic gold in singles (although four have won silver). She knows if she’s going to be the first, she’s got a lot of learning to do.

“The idea is Rio,” she said in a phone interview. “But there’s a lot of stuff I have to do before I get there.”

Such as?

“Since I’m by myself, my goal right now is all about training,” said Logan. “With the eight, it was all about making sure I got a seat in the boat. Now, it’s more that I’ve got to figure out how to make this boat move as fast as I can, and how I can be the strongest I can be and how I can be the fittest I can be.”

She has enlisted the aid of Carlos Dinares, a former competitive rower from Spain, as her coach and is training on Lake Samish, Wash. He is regarded as one of the best coaches in the world. And in just one year, he helped Logan transition from the eight to a fifth-place finish in last summer’s world championships. Logan also had a second-place finish in a race in Lucerne, Switzerland.

“Our goal is to make her a better athlete,’’ said Dinares. “She’s going back to learn. In the eights, she was No.1 in the world. In singles, it’s a totally different story. It’s like you speak English and you want to learn French. You have to start at zero.”

Both are pleased with her progress. At the same time, they both realize a lot of work is yet to be done. Logan is starting years behind the world’s top singles rowers, many of whom have been doing it their entire career.

“It takes a lot of years to get the timing and the coordination down,” said Logan. “It requires a tremendous amount of skill (to get the boat to move). The more you do it, the better you get.

“I’ve just been having a lot of fun with it. I see a path I will continue to take and I know I’m going to improve.”

There are many differences between the eight and a single scull. The eight is 65 feet long and each rower holds one oar, with all contributing to moving the boat in the water. The single scull is about 27 feet long and the rower holds two oars, powering the boat by himself or herself.

Logan’s height – she is 6-foot-2 – is not ideal for singles, but Dinares isn’t concerned. It just means that she has to pay more attention to her technique.

“The single, you need to be fit and strong,” said Dinares. “But you have to be like a ballerina on top of the boat. It requires a lot more skill. It’s a different way to move the boat.”

Logan could have stayed in the eight – in fact, she could return to it at any time and actually rowed in an all-star eight with some of the world’s best during the Head of the Charles in October, beating the U.S. boat for first – but she wanted a new challenge. She has been rowing since she was 12 and training in the eight almost as long.

“After London, when I was thinking about whether or not I wanted to keep going, I knew I wasn’t done rowing,” said Logan. “But I knew going in the eight for another (Olympic) cycle was going to be a challenge and I didn’t know if I could make it.

“And I knew, to keep that same motivation and drive necessary to make it for the next four years, I had to challenge myself in a different way.”

She just happened to pick perhaps the most competitive women’s rowing field in the world, including Olympic champ Miroslava Knapkova of the Czech Republic and New Zealand’s Emma Twigg, who won silver at the worlds.

“It’s been an eye-opening experience,” said Logan. “I’m learning how I move a boat, how a boat moves, all the physics of rowing.

“It requires a lot more technique but now that I’m developing the coordination and strength needed for singles, if applied to any other boat, it would help me.”

So, in fact, she is becoming a better overall rower.

“This is a young girl who has won two-times Olympics, has had very early success,” said Dinares. “Her goal now is to row in a third Olympic games and she is trying to be sure she is at her best ever.

“And she is taking a difficult path, instead of one that is more comfortable, and is challenging herself to become a better rower.”

Logan, who graduated from Stanford in 2011, is so focused on her training that she hasn’t allowed herself a moment to think about life after competitive rowing.

“I’m just trying to be the best athlete I can be,” she said. “I’m not too worried about what I’m going to do. That might seem naive, but I know that’s how I perform best.”

Mike Lowe can be reached at 791-6422 or at:

mlowe@pressherald.com

Twitter: MikeLowePPH

 

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