On July 29, 2012, at 11:30 a.m. local time, Esther Lofgren ’07-’09 will realize an Olympic dream 28 years in the making. That is when the heats of the women’s eight rowing begin in the Games of the XXX Olympiad in London.
Lofgren's position on the eight is the pinnacle of a competitive career that began after her sophomore year in 2006 for the USA Under-23 team. But after taking time off of school to try-out for the Beijing Olympics in 2008—falling just short—Lofgren returned to school with an unsure future in rowing.
"[Not making that team] definitely is something that has motivated me over the last four years," Lofgren said. "In terms of when you’re at that point in an erg test and you need to find that little something to push yourself just a little farther, or those rare moments when you're not sure if this is what you want to do anymore, I definitely thought about making this team, and going to the Olympics."
Lofgren is joining the defending-champion USA team that looks to extend its dominance in the discipline.
Among the women on that boat four years ago was fellow alumna Caryn Davies ’04-’05, who also earned a silver medal in Athens in 2004. Davies will be returning to the Olympics for the third time as she and Lofgren book-end a boat that is both the six-time defending World Champion and the favorite for Olympic gold in London.
Five of the eight women return from the boat that captured the first Olympic gold for the United States in this event four years ago, and all eight members of the crew have competed at the World Championship level.
Though Lofgren did not seriously consider the Olympics until making the U-23 National Team after her sophomore year, the quest for Olympic glory in the Lofgren family goes back to the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, when her mother Christine, now a lecturer in cognitive science at University of California Irvine, narrowly missed out on making the Olympic team as the final cut in the women’s quadruple sculls.
“Both my husband and I rowed at MIT,” Christine said. “After college, we both raced at a national level, and then when I didn’t make the Olympic team in '84, Esther was conceived. She was a post-Olympic baby.”
Both Esther and her parents are quick to emphasize that there was no pressure to pursue the Olympics, or even rowing, from anyone in the family. But the experience of growing up with world-class athletes in the same sport certainly has its benefits—especially when Esther was one of the last cuts for the 2008 Olympic team that went on to win gold in Beijing.
“Being able to share all of these experiences with my parents has been really great, because not a lot of people have parents who pursued the same kind of things as they did in this arena,” Lofgren said.
“Being able to talk with my mom after being cut in 2008, which was pretty devastating, really made me think about things and focus myself for London.”
BLACK AND WHITE
Both Lofgren and Davies were recruited and coached by Radcliffe heavyweight coach Liz O’Leary. In 26 seasons at the helm of the Black and White heavyweight program, O’Leary has coached 13 Olympic and World Championship rowers and a team national championship that included Davies in 2003.
While in college, both women took time off to row with the national team—Davies in 2004 for the Olympics in Athens, and Lofgren in 2008. In their respective Radcliffe careers, the Black and White went a combined 58-23-1.