APRIL 5, 2011

The other day one of my teammates asked me what my earliest Olympic memory was and if I knew then that I wanted to go to the Olympics.Susan Francia

Well, it was watching figure skating at the '94 Winter Olympics on TV and to be honest, no, I didn't think I had a snowball's chance in hell at ever going (not even as a spectator!).  I do remember, however, announcing to my mother that I wanted to get flowers thrown at me like the ice skaters did.  She informed me that a lot of hard work and early morning practices went into earning all those flowers.  I didn't like early mornings so I quickly nixed that idea.

The other big (really the biggest) complication was that I wasn't good at any sports.  I heard about the Olympians… swimmers who were already prodigies at an early age, runners that had incredible natural speed, and skiers who were so fearless they basically plummeted down a mountain.  That was not me.  I was the 6'2" awkward girl with my uncoordinated limbs going in every direction.

Susan FranciaIn high school every coach wanted me on their team and claimed me as their great new potential.  I really wanted to be good but unfortunately nothing went as planned; I ended up sitting on a lot of benches at basketball games, getting a lot of pity claps at running races, and knocking down a lot of high jump bars.  My senior year of high school I earned 1 athletic award… Most Spirited.  It wasn't all a loss though- I gained great friendships, got some exercise, and learned discipline and time management.

It was in college, at the University of Pennsylvania, where I finally met my destiny.  My freshman year I ditched athletics for socializing and my academics suffered without time management skills.  I had to change it up and find a sport that I could 'walk on' to.  After seeing recruiting flyers for the rowing team, I emailed the coach and began rowing my sophomore year.  What do you know… something clicked!  I didn't just have 'potential' I was actually excelling. Susan Francia

By the end of my novice year of rowing, not only had I stood out on the rowing team, but I made an awesome group of friends, and even Dean’s list (my parents were happy about that!).  Once the ball was rolling, I never looked back.

Susan FranciaThough it wasn't my original intention, that little thought, the Olympic dream, danced around in my mind.  After I graduated, I decided to decline good job offers to pull on some sticks and go backwards in a boat.  It was worth it... I've been a member of the U.S. National Rowing Team for almost 7 years now, met some incredible people along the way, and traveled all over the world.  

Even cooler was fulfilling my dream and becoming an Olympic Champion in the women's 8+ (that's 8 people in a shell + 1 coxswain who steers).  My journey doesn't stop there though.  I am still training hard to join the 2012 US Olympic team headed to London.  Susan Francia

This blog will follow the trials and tribulations that an elite athlete experiences as they fight tooth and nail to be the best that they can be and ultimately the best in the world.  Interestingly enough, I’ve now put in a lot of hard work and more morning practices than I care to remember, but I have yet to have flowers thrown at me.  There's still time!