Unexpected Olympic dreams come true
By Ann Killion
LONDON - It's standard fare for Olympians to say - upon winning a medal - that they've been dreaming of the moment their entire lives.
But in the case of Cal's Kara Kohler and Washington's Megan Kalmoe and Adrienne Martelli, that wouldn't be exactly true.
Kohler, Kalmoe and Martelli made up three-quarters of the women's quadruple sculls team that won a bronze medal at Eton Dorney on Wednesday morning. It was the first medal for an American team in the event since the 1984 Olympics. Natalie Dell of Pennsylvania completed the team.
None of the Pac-12 products grew up dreaming of winning an Olympic gold in rowing. They all came to the sport in college, fell in love, and ended up pursuing an Olympic dream.
On Wednesday morning, they finished 4.70 seconds behind the winning boat from Ukraine; Germany took the silver medal. The Americans' accomplishment was significant because it was their first major international competition as a group. Three of the four rowers were together when they won the world championship in the event last year.
"Our new member to come in this year is Kara," Kalmoe said. "She's a very talented young athlete who just jumped right in and matched up with us really well. We owe a lot of this to her."
Kohler, the baby of the boat at just 21, was a swimmer in high school in Clayton Valley, Calif. She chose to go to Cal because she wanted to stay close to home. A family friend suggested that she try out for crew and the sport clicked. In 2010, she was the Conference Newcomer of the Year. In 2011, she was a first team All-American.
In 2012, she's an Olympic medalist.
"Our goal at the end of the day is to push ourselves as hard as we can," she said after the race. "I really didn't know where I was - I was just trying to pull my butt off. It was a long race but I'm so happy."
Martelli, a Washington native, also stayed near home to attend college. She didn't start rowing until she got to University of Washington, where she graduated in 2010.
"I don't think that I could be any happier than I am right now," she said. "I am so proud of my boat and my team, and what we have accomplished. It's such an honor to represent my team, my country, my friends, and my family."
Megan Kalmoe, who turns 29 later this month., is the veteran of the group. This is her sixth season with US Rowing and at her second Olympics. The native of Wisconsin has joked that she was "unathletic and inactive" when she walked onto the Huskies' crew team in 2002. She made herself into a two-time Olympian.
Kalmoe has become famous in rowing circles for her blog www.megankalmoe.com, on which she posts "The List," - a list of her top 20 "hottest" male rowers, which generates a lot of interest.
Now her blog can identify her as an Olympic medalist.
"This feels good," she said. "We went out for gold, we went hard, we went aggressive and we came away with bronze. The girls emptied the tank. We had our best performance….
"I'm happy but we came here for gold. That's what all athletes come for, though this is a great achievement and we're happy with it."
Even if they didn't grow up dreaming about it.