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Juliet Thompson Begins Olympic Journey


SEATTLE--I was on a vacation with my parents in Maine in 1984 when the U.S. Olympic women's rowing team won the gold medal. I remember watching the final race on television in a hotel lobby. The U.S. crew fell behind early, but came back to win by two feet.

I had never met anyone on the U.S. eight before, but I couldn't stop jumping up and down and yelling for them during the race. When they won, I turned to my father with tears in my eyes. I hoped that someday I would get the chance to compete in the Games.

When U.S. Olympic Coach Bob Ernst selected me for a seat on the main U.S. boat during the Olympic Trials this summer, I couldn't believe it. I had been rowing since I was 14 and had competed with the junior national team, but back then I didn't think I would get the chance to win a spot on the team until the 1992 Games.

We came to Seattle at the start of the summer to work together. We've been rowing here almost every day since. We use the University of Washington boathouse. Seattle is great for rowing because there is a lot of water and it's not too hot. The team has gotten a lot of publicity here because the people here are into recreation.

We did get a day off from training recently when we went to Los Angeles for Olympic processing. In the one day we were in L.A., we each had a physical examination and got our photographs taken a hundred times.

The Olympic swimming team was also at the processing center, so I got a chance to talk to Harvard's Dave Berkoff, who will be backstroking his way to the gold at Seoul. Dave, who is senior, set a world record for the 100-meter backstroke at the Olympic Trials last month. He is really excited about competing at the Games.

At the processing center we got a briefing from State Department officials on how we should act in Seoul and what we have to worry about when we're there. People have been worrying about what could happen in Seoul, but I'm not. There won't be any terrorism.

The security people are going out of their minds trying to make this the safest Olympics of all time. There will be three security checkpoints in and out of each area that everyone--the fans, the press and even the athletes--has to go past.

To get from the athletic Olympic Village to the rowing area, I have to go through the checkpoints and get on a bus which will take me down a highway which is cleared of all other traffic. Then I have to go through more security checkpoints. How can I not feel safe.

There is something like 117,000 special forces for security on call, some of whom will be mingling in the crowds in plainclothes to make sure that nothing bad happens. They've checked the backgrounds of all the people who live within 500 yards of the Olympic Village. Finally, there are four rings of security boats off the coast to make sure that nothing bad comes in from the ocean. I think the outermost ring is the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet.

To put it bluntly, it's gonna take one smart terrorist to get in there.

I'm really not concerned about what could happen there because Seoul is so pumped up to have us.

Juliet Thompson, an Eliot House senior and member of the U.S. Olympic women's rowing team, will relate her experiences to members of The Crimson until the Olympic games end later this month.

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