Taylor Ritzel’s London Olympic Experience In her own words

25.08.2012 BY: National Rowing Foundation

One Big Olympic Post


Well, the Olympic Games are over. What an amazing, crazy, overwhelming, unbelievable and fun experience it was. The Women’s 8+ finished on August 2nd, so we got to spend a good ten days enjoying the Games and London, which proved to be perfect, but definitely exhausting.

First, I will share some of my thoughts on our race before getting to the real dirt! On the morning of the 2nd, I could tell we were so ready. Not only had it been four days since we’d raced the heat, but our taper was in full effect so we had a lot (too much) energy and emotions were running a little high.  When we pushed off the dock, the Canadian Women’s 8+ was right there waiting for us to launch and I was immediately fired up. We did our normal warm-up and even got to do a start in our lane, which we rarely do before a race. I remember being extremely nervous at one point, but then consciously calming myself down somehow once we pulled into the blocks. And then, before I knew it we were starting. We got out immediately and continued to take seats until we were ahead bow to stern before the 750m. I remember thinking “is this really happening?” I think we all expected to be racing seat for seat, so to be that far ahead that early on, was really exciting and I think it gave us renewed energy coming across the 1000. Although, for me personally I had to dig deep starting at about the 1100m. Usually you hit a point where you have to be super tough, which usually happens around the 1500, a point where you have to decide what you want and ignore all your body’s attempts to stop.  So, feeling that way at the 1100 was not the greatest thing, but somehow I was able to find another gear along with my teammates. Crossing that line first and being completely and utterly dead was a feeling I will never forget. Standing on the awards dock, being awarded the Olympic Gold and listening to our anthem play was indescribable, something that I was so humbled by and happy to share with my teammates and my family. But, I was most proud of the way we raced. We rowed to our potential and we left nothing out there. In Bled in 2011 and in Lucerne earlier this year, I came away from our performances feeling unsatisfied because I felt like we had more and we for some reason didn’t execute like we could have. I’m so beyond happy that we were able to win the gold on our terms in London. We collectively raced to our potential.

After we won, things were crazy. I don’t think I checked my email for a good four days. I also felt so extremely busy, I wasn’t able to sleep in until the last Saturday of the Games. The Friday after our race, we were featured on several different news sources, including the Today Show and E! News with Bruce Jenner. Then we went immediately to the NRF/USRowing reception at the USA House. What was really fun was watching other events. Trying to get a ticket proved to be somewhat difficult, you had to sign up two days in advance for any and all events, however it wasn’t a guarantee and you had to collect your ticket at a certain time before the start of the event. I did get to see Track and Field, Men’s Triathlon and Women’s Boxing amongst others, which was the highlight of being at the Games post-racing. Getting to see the world’s best athletes up close doing what they do best was unreal. On our way to the stadium for the Track and Field events, the day of the 200m final actually, we took the athlete bus and literally sat next to Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake and Warren Weir, the Jamaicans who placed top three. So, that was pretty cool to see them jammin’ out on their Jamaican Beats headphones and getting pumped up to race.  Having the opportunity to meet other athletes was also really exciting, however I tried to balance my excitement with respecting their privacy and time, because I’m sure many of them were constantly bombarded by people.  I met Sarah Groff, the American triathlete who had the gutsiest race I think I’ve ever seen and ended up placing fourth. I met Serena Williams, she was actually a lot smaller than I pictured, I think I have body dismorphia in that I don’t think of myself as that tall or that big, but let me tell you, I am definitely a lot taller and bigger than most of the female athletes. I was shocked at how small the female sprinters looked and how short the swimmers were!

All in all, my Olympic experience was something I’ll never forget. I had a fabulous time in London, the sheer number of volunteers and security officers made getting around and exploring easy and enjoyable. I am so happy to be home though. All the hype and aftermath of racing was awesome, but tiring. Now I get to spend time with my family and try to figure out what’s next!

As always, thank you to everyone who made my and my teammates’ Olympic dreams possible. The sheer amount of love and support I have felt before, during and after racing makes me emotional to think about. I’m not alone in my journey and that means more than anything, even a gold medal.

Thanks again and Go USA!