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Crimson, Gray, and Gold

Sep 7, 2021

As the Closing Ceremonies of the 2016 Olympics took place, the realization hit Lisa Roman.

Roman, who rowed for Washington State from 2010 to 2012, was a member of Team Canada's women's eight boat that finished fifth at the Olympics in Rio.

"Wow," Roman remembered thinking as she stood inside Rio's Maracanã Stadium. "I am an Olympian."

Five years later, Roman is not only an Olympian once again, she is an Olympic gold medalist.

As amazed as she was at the Rio Olympics of being able to call herself an Olympian, the feeling of being an Olympic gold medalist at the Tokyo Games hasn't quite sunk in.

"It's hard to believe it's actually happened," said Roman, speaking by phone from her home at Vancouver, British Columbia.

Roman was a member of a Team Canada boat that led from start to finish in the Olympic Women's Eight final against New Zealand, China, the United States, Australia and Romania, turning in a time of in 5:59.13 finishing 0.91 seconds ahead of New Zealand.

"We knew if we had our best race there's no reason why we couldn't win a medal," Roman said.

The best race did happen and Roman said the start was the key.

"We knew we had to have a really good start to put ourselves in a good position," she said.

Team Canada jumped out to the lead and, as Roman and the team maintained the advantage, they received a motivational comment from their coxswain.

"Five hundred meters in she said, 'What color do you want your medal to be?'" That was an a-ha moment. If we want to win gold, we can right now."

And when Team Canada crossed the finish line, Roman and her teammates experienced the gamut of emotions.

"It was so overwhelming," Roman said. "All of us were like did we just do that? Did that really happen? We were crying. We were super excited. It was like a weight lifted off our shoulders."

Though Roman and the team did not have to re-qualify their boat due to the year delay of the Olympics, the weight she refers to was the challenges the past year presented to the team, including the change of the coach and the provincial restrictions from the COVID pandemic.

"With COVID it was challenging for everyone," Roman said. "It was all worth it to have that moment."

At WSU, Roman was a two-time All-Pac-12 honoree, and in 2012 was named to the CRCA All-West Region First Team and the Pocock All-America Second Team. In 2015-16, Roman was named to the Pac-12's All-Century Women's Rowing Team. In 2019, she became the first Cougar rower to be inducted into the WSU Athletic Hall of Fame.

She joins an elite group of Cougars who have earned Olympic gold and WSU remains close to Roman's heart, literally and figuratively, as she was sure to represent the Cougars while in Tokyo.

"I take pride in wearing my Washington State gear," she said. "I wore my WSU hat on the Olympic course a couple of days. Being a Coug is my family."

In addition to her WSU gear, Roman has a new piece of hardware to add to her ensemble.

"It stays on me pretty much at all times," Roman said of the gold medal. "Everyone wants to see it, so I keep it on me."