PRINCETON, N.J. — She grew up dreaming of being a world-class swimmer, and was set to focus on tennis while a high school student at the Brooks School in North Andover, Mass.
But when a teacher there suggested she try out for the school’s crew team instead, Elle Logan took the advice and rowed with it — all the way to the Olympics.
Now 24, the Boothbay Harbor resident is gearing up for her second Olympic appearance as part of the U.S. women’s eight team that will seek to defend the gold medal it won during the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing.
Competition in that event at the London Games begins with heat races scheduled for Sunday morning at the Eton Dorney Rowing Centre some 25 miles west of London, followed by the repechage (second chance) races Tuesday and the finals next Thursday.
“Everyone’s put in all the work, all of the training and the miles and miles of rowing,” said Logan, the only Maine athlete on this year’s U.S. Olympic Team, during a recent telephone interview. “From now until the races it’s just fine tuning and focusing on the common goal.”
The 6-foot-2-inch, 185-pound Logan was a fairly instant success in rowing, participating in various development camps during her summers while in high school and winning gold medals in the junior divisions of the USRowing National Championships as early as 2003 and 2004.
She soon moved to the senior ranks, where she experienced similar success not only at USRowing events but at Stanford University, where she was a four-time All-American and helped the Cardinal win the 2009 NCAA championship.
“When I started I had no idea how good I’d be at it, but as I started attending camps and going to races I realized I could do this and I might be pretty good,” said Logan, who graduated from Stanford in 2011. “It’s one of those sports people don’t know much about, you only find out about it when you get out and do it.”
Logan earned her way onto the women’s eight for the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team at age 20, and that team defeated three-time defending champion Romania to bring the gold medal back to America for the first time since 1984.
“We all knew we could win, but we didn’t really talk about it out loud,” Logan told students at the Brooks School in the aftermath of the 2008 Summer Games. “We knew there was a chance, and every practice we just tried to get a little bit better, a little bit faster.
“We were just a really powerful boat. We all felt it, but no one came out and said it.”
Among Logan’s teammates on the 2008 women’s eight was another Mainer, Camden’s Anna Goodale.
Though the two did not know each other well before their shared Olympic experience, the bond proved successful.
“It was great to train with her and get to know her,” said Logan of Goodale, who retired from the sport in 2011. “It’s always good to be around someone like Anna who’s very talented and powerful and has a confident presence.”
Since that Olympic debut, Logan has continued to live the somewhat spartan life of a rower, staying with a host family and training at USRowing facilities in Princeton, N.J.
Most of the time is spent training, because other than a few World Cup events based mainly in Europe and the world championships there are few high-profile events on the annual schedule.
“There aren’t a lot of races,” said Logan, who also helped the United States win gold in the women’s eight at both the 2010 and 2011 world championships, “but in an endurance and power sport like rowing you’re pretty much training full time because if you’re not you can get out of shape pretty quickly.”
Logan actually qualified for the 2012 Olympic Games in the women’s pair with crewmate Erin Cafaro by earning a silver medal at the Samsung World Rowing Cup II in Lucerne, Switzerland, over Memorial Day weekend.
“The race was pretty fast and it was hard under the weather conditions,” Logan told USRowing after the event. “It was good to test our speed and pretty much exciting. I enjoyed it.”
Logan and Cafaro ultimately declined the chance to compete in the women’s pair in London to focus on the women’s eight, where a veteran U.S. crew is considered a favorite to win the gold medal given its status as six-time defending world champion.
Six members of the U.S. eight are back from the crew that earned gold in Beijing, coxswain Mary Whipple as well as Logan, Cafaro, Caryn Davies, Caroline Lind and Susan Francia.
“For a couple of the girls this is their third Olympics,” said Logan. “It just means you’ve been there before and you’ve done it before, and you’re more ready to handle anything that happens, like the wind coming up and huge roiling waters, or when your heat is delayed. That experience just helps you deal with any type of situation.
“I hope it’s that way for me.”
Logan left for London feeling more physically fit than she did for her first Olympic experience.
“It’s a little different going again four years later,” said Logan. “Four years ago I sat in the middle of the boat, I was younger and full of energy.
“Now I’m a little bit older, not that much wiser, but I think the team really has trained hard the last four years and is a lot fitter. We’ve gained a lot of power in terms of the fitness program, and every seat in the eight has a lot of strength and power.
“Hopefully it pays off.”