It was February of 2004; the sun was beaming down upon the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, San Diego. On the water was Sarah Smith, currently a Seattle Academy teacher, who was training on the US National Rowing Team.
Sarah Smith grew up in Oak Ridge, Tennessee with no athletic ambition but an early love of the outdoors. She attended Emory University, where she found her passion for rowing; she joined the Emory Crew Club Team her freshman year and then rowed throughout her time at Emory. Upon graduation, she decided to pursue rowing for the National Team.
Smith moved to Seattle to be with her sister and to train with a group of rowers. “I lived all the way in Sultan with my sister, and made the journey to Seattle every morning to make our 7 a.m. practice,” Smith said. This dedication she showed at an early stage in her rowing career set her up for success.
Two years later, Smith was invited to Chula Vista, San Diego to train with the best rowers in the country. “I trained at least 20-25 hours a week, on the water, on the ERG, and in the weight room,” said Smith. While in Chula Vista, Smith had a very rigorous daily routine. “We would do an interval workout on the water at a high intensity then we would have breakfast and get back on the water for a technical row. In the afternoon we would do weights or run.” Smith said. “I slept a lot during training and ate the same thing every day, which got boring, but I loved to train with the team and to push myself.”
In 2004 the Olympics were held in Athens, Greece. The women’s US National Team had 28 rowers including four alternates. Alternates are rowers who are ready to race if any of the 24 rowers get injured. Smith was an alternate for the lightweight double and was prepared to race if anything happened to either of the rowers. “I, unlike other alternates, felt like I was given a fair shot at making the boat and was just happy to be there a part of the team,” Smith said. When she wasn’t driving other racers to their events, Smith enjoyed eating baklava, hiking and hanging out at the Olympic Village.
Looking back on her experience, Sarah Smith is grateful her time on the Olympic team. “It was a lot of work, but it was all worth it,” Smith said. “Training and racing for the US National Team were some of the greatest experiences of my life.”