Silas Stafford Realizes the Olympic Dream

Rower Silas Stafford (Stanford '08) became an American Olympian last month. He persevered through a broken rib to qualify for the London team. He'll be in the US two-man boat during the Games. He joined David Lombardi last week.

Silas, 2012 has been a true roller coaster for you, but now you're on one of the high loops. Did you show a lot of emotion the moment you made the team?

Yeah, it was a pretty incredible experience. January and February, I was rowing very well trying for the 8-man boat. Then I broke my rib. All the training and suffering from the past three years that had been bottled up, it all just rushed out when I crossed the finish line. I was just yelling for no reason.

You mention the years of training required to make the Olympic team. What was your key to maintaining necessary focus throughout it all?

You have to focus on really subtle things. I focus on just trying to get one inch further per stroke, on being just a little more efficient. There's a certain mentality that you need to have success in rowing. You have to embrace suffering and embrace hard work. Talent can be beaten by hard work.

Since you were a runner in high school, you started rowing in college. How much has your running background translated into your rowing success?

Running and rowing have a lot in common, since they're both aerobic sports. In the boat, the race is about 5-7 minutes long, so it's comparable to running a mile. Running was helpful, since I already had an aerobic base. I knew how to work hard and manage suffering. It helped developed the mental tricks I use to get through a race.

Give me an example of a 'mental trick' that you use to get through a race.

I tell myself that I'm going to stay on a fast pace for 30 seconds. Then, 30 seconds later, say 'OK, another 30 seconds.' Piece by piece, you trick yourself to build a great effort. You have to do this, because pain and suffering come before the halfway mark. Your body's limits are never where you think they are.

You're a West Coast guy (Santa Rosa), but rowing has a reputation of being an East Coast sport. Do you sense a shift in the balance of power toward the Pacific?

Yeah, there's been a shift to the West Coast over the last 15 years. Washington, Cal, and Wisconsin have all won national titles. Rowing is no longer a sport dominated by the East Coast.

You're an Olympian now. Any perks yet?

[Laughs] Every day, there's a new perk that's really fun. I got my first package of gear the other day, with clothes that say 'USA' on them. It really starts to sink in when your babysitter from when you were five years old calls you.

Any idea of what you'll do after the London Games?

I studied geology at Stanford. I'm very interested in geothermal energy. I'll figure it all out after London. Right now, it's still all about that.

David Lombardi, a TV and radio (95.7 The Game SF) personality in the Bay Area, is a Stanford and Pac-12 Conference enthusiast. He has broadcast the Cardinal on KZSU for several years. You can check out several of his Stanford calls and other writing at

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