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Olympic Gold Medalist Reflects on Head of the Charles ’09

October 20, 2009 – 10:15 AM

Kathy Keeler, who won an Olympic Gold Medal at the 1984 LA Olympics as part of a women’s eight boat and has been a member of four U.S. National Rowing teams, reflects on the 45th running of the Head of the Charles this past weekend. Some 8,000 rowers competed in 56 events and more than 300,000 gathered to watch from the banks and bridges along the Charles River between Boston and Cambridge.


By Kathy Keeler

For me the Head is about celebrating the sport of rowing. You see rowing from both ends of the spectrum — from high school rowers in perhaps their first year of rowing to World Class rowers and even those who have been at it for over 50 years competing just to be here again.

Maybe it’s because I have been around for so long (my first Head of the Charles was 1974)  but I am always inspired by the oldest and the youngest competitors.  The over 60 and 70 year-olds that row by are awesome.  Most are men, but the older women really touch me. Of course women over 55 grew up before Title IX so many of these women started rowing as adults.  If fact, many took up rowing after raising children.  I rejoice that they choose to compete.  Well done to Eve Green, Laurette Rinlaub, Mary Elizabeth Stone (she’s 82, click for interview), and Barbara Colvin, the four women who raced in the over 70 single!!!headshot_keeler

This past weekend, there were 70+ entries in the the boys and girls Youth 8’s and  4’s.  Some represent their schools, but many row for community programs.  It is very exciting for the sport to know that you can learn to row almost anywhere in America and then get a chance to come to Boston and compete against kids from all over the country (and even overseas) while you are still in high school.

The fun thing about the Head is that the single file format lets everybody race together no matter how fast you are.  You might pass boats, you might get passed but you are in the middle of the action and the fans on the bridges and shore line cheer for you either way!

This year, there was a lot of press coverage for “The Great Eights.”  These were both men and women’s 8’s teams that were “World” crews, that is, the rowers were World and Olympic Champions from different countries that jumped in to row together!  Not surprisingly both “Great 8’s” won.  (I got to see the men’s group warm up on the ergs at the Harvard boathouse. The power they generated was phenomenal!)

The event that was dearest to me though was the parent/child double!  My nephew and his mom raced this year for the second time!  They finished fifth — what a formidable combination.  My nephew, Gilder, is a Varsity rower at Wesleyan and Ginny Gilder was an Olympic Medalist in the Quad in 1984.  They both also rowed in their age appropriate events but this race lets them share their love of each other and the sport.


Lastly, it’s worth noting that I have NEVER  before seen snow at the Head.  It made the end of the regatta almost surreal.  So even after a day of slogging around and being cold and wet, my daughter ran around trying to catch snow flakes on her tongue!  What could be better than that?


  1. 2 Responses to “Olympic Gold Medalist Reflects on Head of the Charles ’09”

  2. Kathy — Great piece, and great photos, so glad I found it! –AR

    By a robbart on Oct 21, 2009

  3. Thanks for the coverage of the Head of the Charles–as a former New Englander and rower, it’s fun to be reminded of that fall classic when you live in Ohio. I loved the links and, particularly, news of the new parent-child division.

    By Nancy on Oct 21, 2009

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