The chance to be the first woman to race in an Egyptian regatta may not have made up for the disappointment of missing the 1980 Olympics because of the U.S. boycott, but Carrie Graves, Harvard women's crew coach, and her partner Peggy McCarthy called their trip to the Mideast last week the strangest experience of their rowing careers.
The two women were engulfed by natives who threatened to stone their Egyptian women rivals if they lost and police were called in to tame the unruly crowd.
"The natives in Luxor did tell the Egyptian women that if they did not win the race they would stone them," Graves said. "They were real gutsy women."
Despite the threats, however, the Egyptian women were only loudly booed by the crowd after Graves and McCarthy won the 1000-meter pairs race against a 16- and a 17-year-old pair. As for the treatment of the two American women, Graves said that she and her partner were accepted warmly by the Egyptians.
"We didn't have a special audience with Anwar Sadat, but I think that we were treated very well," she added. The two women were invited to row after Graves, upon learning that Harvard's male rowers were going to the regatta, wrote to the organizers asking if she and McCarthy could compete.
"It was a very flip letter," Graves said. "I was shocked to get a mailgram that said 'application accepted'."
Both Graves and McCarthy were on the 1976 U.S. women's team that won a bronze medal in the Montreal Olympics.