Local competed in Tokyo

Brooke Mooney (Provided photo — US Rowing)

SARANAC LAKE — It might not have been the Olympic dream Brooke Mooney had in mind, but it is one she will never forget.

The United States women’s eight crew was considered by some to be a rowing dynasty. The U.S. had won gold in the event in three straight Olympics.

But the U.S. didn’t win this year. In fact, they didn’t even medal for the first time since the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney.

Mooney, 25, who grew up in southern Vermont and now calls Keene Valley her hometown, was a part of the women’s eight crew.

“I was pretty sad and I am still pretty sad,” Mooney said. “As a boat, we were so excited, we believed so much in ourselves that we could have won or podiumed.”

Mooney said the team questioned what they did wrong. But nothing went wrong. They just ended up in fourth, and it’s something that they are going to have to work through.

“Getting fourth at the Olympics is actually pretty good, there is no denying that,” Mooney said. “We just really believed in ourselves and we thought we could do it, and I guess finals day just wasn’t our day.”

For Mooney, it was her first time competing in the Olympics, but she was not always into rowing. In fact, she didn’t even start rowing competitively until she was a senior in high school.

Growing up in Vermont, she started out as a cross country skier. Just like rowing, she excelled at cross country skiing as she was a three-time member of New England’s Jr. National Nordic Ski team and had four top-three finishes at U.S. Jr. Nationals. She also was a five-time All-American Nordic skier.

Even after winning many awards as a skier, she wanted to do something else.

“I was starting to feel a little burnt out and not enjoying it as much as I used to,” Mooney said. “So a ski coach of mine sort of pointed me into the direction of rowing because I was tall, strong, fit. So I tried it out and then I went to school for it in college and ended up liking it enough that I ended up joining the national team.”

Mooney said that rowing is a major time commitment and it’s practically all-day, every-day training.

“We do a lot of training,” Mooney said. “Two to three sessions a day and when you are not training you are doing meal prep, napping or groceries, but you are always doing something that kind of goes towards your rowing and your training.”

She ended up rowing for the University of Washington, where she helped the university’s women’s rowing team win an NCAA title in 2017. She was also named the Pacific-12 Athletic Conference women’s Rowing Athlete of the Year in 2018. On top of all this, Mooney broke the women’s world record for 2,000 meters on the ergometer, an indoor rowing machine, in March.

Mooney said out of all her accomplishments, making the Olympic team was her greatest.

“It’s not easy to make and oftentimes it takes time,” Mooney said. “The sport takes time, so I feel pretty accomplished to make the team my first go through Olympic selection.”

She said her Olympic experience was interesting.

As the pandemic became a major concern throughout the world, the Olympics had to take many precautions for the athletes competing in the games.

“COVID is pretty much the top concern over there,” Mooney said. “There was so many different protocols and testing and various things that we had to do to even walk into the village. Now when you are in the village you are wearing plastic gloves in the dining hall, there were dividers in the dining hall, each sport takes different buses to their venues.”

Mooney said that everything was so COVID cautious at the Olympics and made for a really unique experience. They had to be either at their apartment in the village, eating or at the racecourse. There was no mingling with other teams or checking out other events or venues.

“You are either racing and you are COVID negative or you are COVID positive and you are kicked out of the Village,” Mooney said.

A major discussion throughout the Olympics was the cardboard beds the athletes were given.

Mooney said the cardboard was the base of the bed, the bed frame, and the actual mattress was like recycled coiled mattresses.

She said that they were not very comfortable and within three nights she woke up with a very sore back. But she, along with the rest of the rowing team, was able to make it work once racing started, so waking up sore would not be a concern.

As Mooney and the rest of the crew team returned back home last week, it marked the first time the entire men and women’s U.S. crew team left the Olympics since 1908 without a medal, since its inception in 1900. The fourth-place finish by the women’s eight boat was tied with the men’s eight for the best result of any U.S. boat.

Mooney, along the rest of the women’s eight team, will likely try to come back stronger for the 2024 Olympics in Paris.


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