Though the Games are over, we couldn’t pass up a chance to meet the nine women who made history by winning back-to-back Olympic gold in London this summer. They are 7-time World Champions and the first female team to accomplish a win at the 2008 and 2012 Games. Read below to hear all about a few of the ladies–Erin Cafaro, Mary Whipple (the boat coxswain), Esther Lofgren (who previously shared her rowing tips with us), and Meghan Musnicki. Side note: The girls brought their medals to the office and they are heavy! (Not to mention shiny!)
1) Tell us about your first “Holy sh*t, I’m an Olympian!” moment, in regards to the 2012 Games.
Meghan Musnicki: I didn’t get hit with that feeling until the Closing Ceremonies. They funneled us all from the Olympic Village down to the stadium. You walk down through the stadium and come out where the marathoners ran. All you see are these huge high walls and confetti streaming down and thousands of people screaming. That was definitely a “whoa” moment for me.
Even more so than the Opening Ceremonies?
MM: We actually didn’t go to the Opening Ceremonies because we raced the next day! We were in our satellite village, about 90 minutes from downtown London.
Esther Lofgren: When we went out for our first race was when it hit me. We had been there for over a week and had watched everything being built like the grandstands. So when we started warming up, it was such a cool feeling to finally be doing what we had all trained for.
Mary Whipple: Usually when we race not many people are watching, and sometimes only our parents are there! The first day when we were finishing our final practice the gates opened up and the crowds were insane. For finals it’s usually that way, but for the first day, never. That was so special, especially since rowing is so huge in London.
EL: It’s 8:30 a.m. and there are 30,000 people watching you, which is definitely not how it usually is!
2) During the Games, what was your most challenging moment to get through?
MW: Just not letting a simple distraction snowball into something major. One little thing can really trigger a chain reaction. I think we dealt with issues really well because we spoke about it, we had open communication and we did a good job checking each other and letting the other know when something made us uncomfortable and then figuring out what to do to fix it.
Erin Cafaro: We are all a group of very strong willed women and I think that can be difficult, especially in a boat where there are nine of us! When there are two people you just worry about your relationship with one other person but when there are nine we have to air it all out and make sure when we are on the starting blocks we are completely focused and there’s no dirty laundry.
EL: With that insane crowd during the first day of racing, we actually couldn’t hear Mary at the very end, so to know we were all on the same page and trusting that Mary was steering the girls who could hear, it was a pretty great moment for us.
3) It’s probably safe to say your most satisfying moment during the Games was winning the gold! So what was the first thing you thought about when you realized what happened?
MW: It was just pure elation. I’m not usually a big yeller (I mean, I guess I am because I am the coxswain!) but I remember people telling me I was doing all these huge fist pumps! It was just raw elation.
EL: I’m tearing up right now just talking about it, and I don’t ever cry! On the podium everyone kept telling me to stop crying because I was ruining all the pictures. It was so special, all of us have been through so much to make the team. Erin broke two ribs right before the World Championships last year and I was the last person cut before the Beijing team was assembled, so just to be there was so amazing. We had a great race and that was wonderful but thinking about all it took to get there and the people who helped us get there was emotionally overwhelming.
4.) During the Games, what is a funny, embarrassing, or random moment that you can share with us?
EC: One of our teammates has a big personality and talked in the Oprah voice all the time. Whenever our coach walked into meetings, she’d always yell, “Thomas Terhaar!” Little things like that would always crack us up, just because we had so much energy leading up to the race. The stupidest things would set us off. But even on the day of the final, we were in such high spirits. No one was nervous; we were just ready to go. I thought that was cool because we have all raced a lot and usually the atmosphere is very different, so I loved that it was so upbeat.
MW: That was our second race together as the line up and we were all so excited to see what we could become and what our defining moment was. We wanted to keep the wining streak alive, but we were all so willing to have each other’s back and not let anyone feel like the weight of the world was on anyone’s shoulders, so we were ready to race.
5) Tell us about your favorite moment from meeting another athlete/celebrity?
MW: I got really excited to meet Missy Franklin. I think I was acting younger than she was, I was freaking out. We took a picture and my face is bright red from pure embarrassment of how I was acting! But she is a great ambassador to women’s sports and the Olympic movement, she’s just amazing. I also got a picture with the gymnasts; everyone but Gaby Douglas and I felt like one of them because I’m 5’3. I tried telling them they could be coxswains in college!
Bonus question! Where will you put your medals?
EL: Right now it’s in a sock in my purse!
MW: This is my third Olympics and I have another gold and silver medal. I put those in my closet next to my accessories so when I get ready for the day I can remind myself what I’ve done. I just want them around me! Every time we go to the Olympic training center in the winter I bring them, they remind me what my goals are.
Last question, we promise. What’s next?
MW: I’m retiring but I’ll stay within the sport. I’m going to create summer camps specifically for coxswains. And I’m getting married in September!
EC: Four years is a long time, so I’ll take it day by day. As for this year I still have the competitive bug and I think I always will, so I want to see what else I can compete in. I’m interested in things like the CrossFit Games or ultramarathons. I just want to go win at things!