My Olympic Story: Margot Shumway

Margot Shumway is one of the few Ohio State Olympians to be making a return trip after competing in 2008. Shumway, an American rower, talks about bouncing back from adversity, her mother's cancer battle and future plans in this BSB Olympic profile.

Margot Shumway's always been about beating the odds. Despite not starting her rowing career until late in her Ohio State tenure, she'll be competing in her second Olympic Games this summer after also taking part in 2008 in Beijing. She also has come back from a recent dip in form that left her off the national team, and her mother is battling lung cancer. On the list of athletes to root for, Shumway has to be near the top.

Hometown: Westlake, Ohio
Event: women's rowing double sculls, heats July 30, repechage July 31, final Aug. 3
How Qualified: Shumway and rowing partner Sarah Trowbridge had an interesting path to London. The two finished third at the U.S. trials in April, and only the top two teams were set to advance. But members of both of those boats decided to give up the bids in order to focus on quadruple sculls, putting Shumway and Trowbridge back in the mix. The two still had to go Lucerne, Switzerland, to win a qualification race to advance, but they did so in May to punch their tickets to London.
Medal Chances: Shumway raced on a fifth-place quadruple sculls team in 2008, so she knows what it's like to be in contention at the Olympics. The two qualified with a time of 7:03.96 in the two-kilometer race, but it's hard to judge times against one another on open water because of course conditions.
Ohio State Career: Shumway came to OSU as a walk-on in 2001 but helped the Second Varsity Eight to the Big Ten title a year later.
In Her Own Words: "I joined the Ohio State team when the novice coach approached me in the late fall, and for some reason the idea of joining a collegiate team for a sport I had never done really terrified me. After a lot of deliberating I decided I had to conquer that fear and figure out why it scared me and try something new. I grew up playing soccer and was very competitive in high school on the basketball team and I ran a lot. I was always very athletic from a young age.

"I just really liked the team aspect at Ohio State, so I stuck with it. That was a very special group of women and my novice coach was so great for us and our dynamic. I remember telling my varsity coach, Andy Teitelbaum, that I wanted to make the national team one day. I think from there I just made the decision to see how far I could take my competitiveness in the sport.

"After the initial shock of losing trials and in coming third, and then the shock of being given a second chance, there wasn't so much a celebration as a rededication to getting faster. We totally committed ourselves to becoming better athletes and rowers and using every moment of the five weeks leading up to qualification to get stronger mentally and physically.

"Qualifying in Lucerne was very satisfying because we set a goal for ourselves and achieved it. It was also satisfying because I felt like we honored the decision our teammates had made to give up their chance at qualification by not only doing it, but by winning the regatta.

"Ultimately, (my recent) successes have come from finding joy in the sport again. I really don't do well when I'm not happy. After getting cut (from the national team) in early summer 2011, I got in touch with my former coach, Matt Madigan, and asked him to coach me in the single. I just knew that there was more in me than what I had shown in Princeton. Even if I didn't win again, I just wanted to feel like myself and feel my love for rowing again. I went back to Potomac Boat Club midsummer and within weeks was rowing better, feeling healthier and smiling more than I had in months. I didn't win Senior World Trials in August, but that was a very gratifying experience because I knew I had raced my best. I went on to win the Pan Am Games in the single in October and from there I felt some momentum again.

"Beijing is a blur sometimes. I remember glimpses and moments and feelings, and ultimately being disappointed with our final performance. This time around, it's kind of fun because I get to watch my teammates who are first time Olympians and see the wonder and excitement in their eyes. It's good for me, as one of the older athletes on the team, to be around that kind of energy. They make me laugh, and I think laughter and enjoyment are very important in the Olympic process.

"I'm in a different boat class this time with someone I really respect and trust, and I believe we will have our best performances here, no matter what the outcome may be. That is really exciting to me. Any time I can race the best internationally at a really cool venue, it's really exciting. This is a wonderful chance to see what we can achieve and I'm thankful for it.

"Trow and I have always gotten a kick out of making each other laugh and being silly, and I think early on we just connected and established a level of trust that is rare. That same dynamic is present in our double. We are more like family than just good friends, which means we get all of the good and wonderful with all of the hard and not so wonderful. But as with family, it's a very strong bond and ultimately one that led us to go from finishing third at trials to cleaning up our game, qualifying, and now doing some of our best work in London. I trust that we will go to the line for each other and that is very comforting going into the hardest races of our careers.

"It's anybody's race on finals day. We are going to show up with our best and drive the boat down the course as fast as we can.

"Having my mom (Julia) as well as my dad and two brothers here is like a completion for me. But I know that no matter where they are or where I am, we are connected by support and love. My entire family has shaped me into the person I am today, and I consider myself so lucky to have them in my life. It will be so fun to see them out in the stands during racing. I can't wait.

"As far as my mom, well she's a fighter, just like me. And no matter what, with my rowing or her health, we are in this life together. She has been my support and go-to person when I struggle or have joy my entire life. And now I have a unique chance to be that for her. I've had a lifetime of lessons on how to love someone unconditionally from her, and when she needs me that's the best thing that I can provide for her. Occasionally i say something silly to make her laugh and that helps too.

"I fiddle with the guitar a bit and write some songs now and again. I don't want to be a rock star or anything, but I do enjoy making music. I'm more into cheese-making these days. Well, watching cheese-making shows. But I try to think about what my future holds when I retire this fall, and I can't see myself stuck indoors with a normal job. I want to be outside doing things and making things. Maybe that will be cheese-making. Either way it's gonna be great."


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