By Lisa Costantini | Sept. 21, 2015, 4:33 a.m. (ET)
The U.S. women's eight, led by coxswain Katelin Snyder, competes at the 2015 World Rowing Championships on Sept. 6, 2015 in Aiguebelette, France.


Women’s eight coxswain Katelin Snyder is part of an impressive team — a team that earlier this month won its 10th consecutive world or Olympic gold medal. But what the 28-year-old Rio 2016 Olympic hopeful thinks is even more impressive is the team of female rowers who came before her.

In honor of World Gratitude Day on Sept. 21, we asked Snyder which Olympic athlete she was grateful paved the way for future rowers. The four-time world champion spoke about Anita DeFrantz, who was not only on the first U.S. Olympic rowing team (and took home bronze), but has been a pioneer for women in sport ever since hanging up her oars.

Who She’s Grateful For…

Being a woman in sport, I feel very connected and inspired by women in sport who came before me. Women have only been rowing in the Olympics since 1976. I can only imagine what it took to get there. For me, just knowing women like Carol Brown and Anita DeFrantz and Ginny Gilder, Carie Graves… all these women who were on the first couple Olympic teams. Learning about them is really important. They paved the way for me to be able to go to college and get a scholarship for rowing and row full-time — which is incredible.

What DeFrantz Did…


Anita DeFrantz competes at the Montreal 1976 Olympic Games.

I know DeFrantz worked really hard after the Olympics to help shape the Olympic experience so it promoted pure and clean sports. She worked as the vice president of the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee. She served as the vice president of World Rowing Federation (FISA) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) chair of the commission on women and sport. She was the first African American woman to represent the United States on the IOC. Having a female who is working really hard to be in a leadership position — for FISA and for the IOC — and having somebody like that who is promoting women and promoting women’s sports is really crucial for us.

Why She’s Grateful…

I know DeFrantz has her law degree and was going through law school while she was training for the Olympics. That’s so crazy and inspiring to me. Here I am rowing, and I work two hours a day (at a consulting firm that helps guide and assist the rowing community), a couple months out of the year. And that to me is just overwhelming.

How Different Her Sport Would Be Without DeFrantz…

I have definitely seen a growth in gender equality in sport. I don’t think it’s where I would ultimately love for it to be, but I know when Anita and Carol were on the women’s team, they weren’t allowed in the boathouse when men were present. They weren’t even allowed to use the bathroom inside the boathouse.

Now it’s like duh, of course the women can use the boathouse restroom; but back then, it wasn’t obvious. These women had to push and push and push. And it was scary and hard. And I appreciate it so much.

How She Hopes To Inspire Others…

I definitely feel inspired to help young women become more involved with sport.

I work as a rowing coach at Mercer Junior Rowing Club in New Jersey and I coach girls who have never rowed before. They’re eighth- and ninth-grade girls — so 13, 14, 15 years old. It makes me realize the hurdles that we face as a society when it comes to women and sport — especially in regards to body image.

I work hard to impart on these young girls that working hard and being muscular and strong and fit is really cool and really fun. And hanging out with your friends is fun, and meeting boys is fun. But it’s really cool and really fun to be strong and fit and win races. And to me, that’s an important thing for young girls to learn.

I think it’s cool when you have a team of all women and you’re learning to lift each other up and celebrate each other’s successes. To me that is something special.

What She Said When She Met DeFrantz…

I saw her once at a competition in Europe. She was walking ahead of me while I was on my way to weigh in for our final, and — in a super nerdy way — I called out for her hoping to say hi. I just wanted to say thank you for everything she's done for us. She responded by thanking me! And telling me what an honor it was for her to be in France watching our races. I insisted the honor was ours.

I just thought that was so special. I've always understood that as a member of the rowing community, I am part of something bigger than myself, but I could tell that Anita felt the same way, and it was so incredibly humbling.

To all the other women who came before me I think what I would want to say to them is thank you for being bold and pushing for equality when no one else would.