Athlete of the Month
When the United States women started their unprecedented winning streak in the eight in 2006 Caroline Lind was there. And she's been there ever since. Now the longest serving member of her country's most competitive boat, Lind has collected two Olympic gold medals and five World Championship titles along the way., Lind's most recent success was at the 2013 World Rowing Championships in Chungju (KOR).
The Princeton University graduate talks to World Rowing about the sport she started out in and why rowing caught her fancy. Lind also describes what it's like to be competing against her team mates and where she is heading in rowing.
World Rowing: Where are you for the month of April?
Caroline Lind: At Princeton (at the US training centre). We're here all month. We just got back from Chula Vista (US Olympic training centre in San Diego) for three months. We go there because it freezes here in Princeton.
WR: Has it warmed up?
CL: Yes it's melted but still very chilly.
WR: Tell us a bit about how you got into rowing.
CL: I'm from North Carolina and there's not a lot of rowing opportunities there. I then went to boarding school in Massachusetts and while I was there my mom read an article about scholarships at university through rowing. So I tried it out (at high school). I made the junior national team in my first year. I remember the first season of rowing pushing my body to limits that I never had before. That was very appealing to me, I wanted to see what I could do physically.
WR: Did you do any other sports?
CL: I was on the swim team by the time I was five years old. At high school I did basketball, water polo, track - mainly hurdles, I was better at longer distance.
WR: What about your parents, are they sporty?
CL: My dad played basketball at Duke (University) and he was always my hero. I thought I'd play basketball at college as well. I loved doing all different sports but after I had the experience on the junior national (rowing) team then it never really was a question of what I'd do especially as there are so many more opportunities (in rowing) than in basketball.
WR: After competing in 2000 on the junior national team you didn't race internationally for a few years. Were you still rowing during this time?
CL: After 2000 I was invited to train with the national team but I didn't make it on the team, I was too young. In 2004 coach Tom Terhaar had me go to Italy (I was still at college) to see the racing. It was such an amazing experience. I was still rowing through this time with Princeton University and studying (anthropology major with African American studies and women's studies). I went to Princeton for the university not for the rowing.
WR: How did you balance rowing with your academic life?
CL: It was really hard. I don't know how I did it. I'd be at school from 6:30pm to 9:30pm and then up for practice early in the morning and then at school and more practice. I think it's preferable not to do it that way. Rowing is definitely a sacrifice but it's definitely worth it.
WR: What were your graduate studies in?
CL: I did an MBA (master of business administration) with a focus in accounting. It was something useful but it taught me that I definitely don't want to be an accountant.
WR: Have you always had Olympic aspirations?
CL: Even as a kid I always watched the Olympics and I would pretend to be an Olympic swimmer. When I started rowing I definitely thought about the Olympics as an attainable goal and so I set my mind to it.
WR: The United States women's eight has had an impressively long winning streak, what do you attribute this to?
CL: I think it's a testament to the entire team. I've been with the team since 2005 (except 2010 when I was finishing graduate school) and we're always pushing each other to get better, even those that don't make the team. It takes the incredible drive from the members of the team and it's a testament to the new girls and their passion and strength.
WR: You've been with the eight since the beginning of the winning streak.
CL: Yes, I'm the oldest on the team now.
WR: Give me a bit of a picture of life at the training centre.
CL: We're really one big group. There's about 20-30 of us in any given year depending on who the coach invites. We race and we train together and we train hard. We live in separate places.
WR: What is it like to be training with the people you ultimately are competing against to make a seat in the eight?
CL: That's one of the hardest parts about rowing - you compete all year against each other and then you have to come together as a crew. I think it comes down to the quality of the individual. The people who can put their egos aside and work for the team goal, not individual goals. I try to keep myself positive as this is a sport that we choose to do for fun. I think it's important to support each other for the common goal. It is hard though especially when there's people who come in and then leave again, who don't always know how to handle the situation.
WR: What about outside of rowing, do you keep your life separate from your team mates?
CL: We hang out together especially when we're at training camps. In the weekends we often do things together like watch basketball or football.
WR: What's next for you?
CL: I don't know what I want to do. I'm not looking for jobs at the moment as my focus is on rowing and hopefully making another Olympics. I'm aiming for Rio.
WR: With all of your success what's your inspiration to keep rowing?
CL: I don't really know. I love my sport and I love the team and I think I have more to give. I wasn't going to keep going if I couldn't commit to the whole Olympic cycle. But you never know what is going to happen especially in terms of injury.
WR: Is the eight your aim, your favourite boat?
CL: I love the eight but I also like the pair. It's special and fun when you get a good pairs partner. I'm happy to be in any boat like the quad, but maybe not the single. If they put me in the single I may have to retire (laughs). I didn't get into rowing to be alone.
WR: Do you have any races coming up?
CL: We're going to the second World Cup (in June) and we've also got national races coming up in a few weeks.
WR: When will you know if you've made the team?
CL: Sometimes the pair is selected early in the season but often we don't know the final line up of the eight until about a month before the World Rowing Championships. We do, though, get a sense through the season if we've made the boat, but we don't know for sure.