Erin Cafaro, "bow-seat", crosses finish line first !!

BEIJING - Mary Whipple invited the other members of the US women's eight rowing crew to her home In Princeton, New Jersey for one final "boat meeting" before the team went to China. The highlight of the evening came when they watched in awe a video of the 1984 women's eight, which came from behind to defeat the favored Romanians in Lake Caistas (Ventura County). It was the first Olympic gold for the US Women's rowing team.

A very jubilant Erin Cafaro !!

"It was really inspiring to see those women, so cool when they were neck-and-neck," Whipple said. "That's what we kind of envisioned happening Sunday." But when coxswain Whipple, who is from Sacramento, guided the crew at Shuny Rowing-Canoeing Park, that vision couldn't come close to matching the final result. Leading wire-to-wire, the United States won its first women's eight gold medal in 24 years, beating second place Netherlands by 1.88 seconds and ending Romania's string of three Olympic gold medals. "We were just on a mission," Whipple said. "We knew we could produce a gold-medal-winning night. It was just, 'Can we do it on that day?'. We just decided, we can do this. We wanted to make our mark in history.

The race was historic for other reasons, because it also was the last time Whipple would share the same skinny boat as middle rower Anna Cummins, who is retiring. Their 10-year partnership on the women's eight produced three World Cup victories and now two Olympic medals. Whipple, Cummins and stroker Caryn Davies were the only holdovers from the 2004 silver medal from Athens. Erin Cafaro, who went to the University of California at Berkeley, and Elle Logan, a current Stanford graduate, are two of the newcomers.

...and this girl did pretty good, too !
Natalie Coughlin
One Gold
Two Silver
Three Bronze

As it turned out, the only thing Grace Upshaw did not like about the Olympic Games was the tiny slice that represented the women's long jump final. Everything else was great.

The Cal grad and Los Altos Hills resident was well off her best Friday night at the Bird's Nest and finished eighth with a leap of 21 feet, 7 1/4 inches. Her personal best is 22-6 3/4, which she recorded at the Olympic trials to make the U.S. team.

"Definitely not what I had in mind," Upshaw said. "I was really disappointed. I brought everything I possibly had tonight and it wasn't enough. I was trying to feel as good as I possibly could, but it wasn't there today. "I wanted to approach this like it was the last thing in the world."

Upshaw's best jump was her first. She ended the competition with four fouls in her last five attempts "Everything felt like it was too much effort," she said.

On the top end of the competition, Maurren Maggi of Brazil and Tatyana Lebedeva of Russia engaged in a spirited battle for the gold medal. Maggi posted the day's best mark, 23-1 1/4, on her first jump. Lebedeva jumped 23-0 3/4 on her last attempt, falling short, metrically and officially, by one measly centimeter. Nigeria's wonderfully named Blessing Okagbare jumped 22-8 for the bronze medal.

For Upshaw, this is her last Olympics after representing the U.S. at Athens in 2004 and here. She did not make the final in Athens. But the 32-year-old said she will continue competing. "I'm going to jump next year. In terms of four years from now, I doubt it," she said. Upshaw's boyfriend, pole vaulter Tim Mack, and her older sister, Joy Margerum, rented an apartment close to the Bird's Nest. That's where Upshaw spent time relaxing when she wanted to get away from the Olympic Village. She plans to leave Beijing on Sunday for London, before competing at a meet in Gateshead, England.

(Article written by John Crumpacker, San Francisco Chronicle, August 23...some information deleted).

By Jeff Faraudo Bay Area News Group
Article Launched: 08/17/2008 08:33:12 PM PDT

BEIJING - Grace Upshaw didn't trigger the obsession with the long jump that seems to grip her family, and she won't end it. Instead, she's the link that secures three generations - so far - of passion for the event.

Upshaw, who begins competition Tuesday in her second Olympic Games, will be surrounded by family in Beijing. And that's fitting, because the long jump is very much a family affair for the Upshaws. Both of her parents are here, along with a sister, two nieces and her boyfriend, Tim Mack. Most of them also are long jumpers, although Mack was the 2004 Olympic pole-vault champion.

"It means so much," said Upshaw, 32, who grew up in Lafayette and went to Cal. "Just having everybody travel this distance and support me... it wouldn't be the same if they weren't here." Upshaw's dad, Monte, 72, was a precocious star in the long jump more than 50 years ago. In 1954 he broke Jesse Owens' 21-year-old national high school record with a leap of 25 feet, 41/2 inches. Just 18 years old, he was ranked No. 5 in the world that season.

Monte, whose career was cut short by a leg injury he suffered as a freshman at Cal, never was entirely comfortable with the fuss his father, Earnest, made over his achievements. "He was very enthusiastic. I couldn't understand all the attention," Monte said. "I was just doing something that you do after school."

Now he gets it, Grace believes. "For him, it's pretty cool," she said. "His father was so proud and so excited for him when he was in high school and breaking these records. When he was growing up it was too much attention for him. He's a pretty low-key guy, but his dad was loving it.

"We've talked about how special it is that he gets to experience what his father went through, to watch me achieve these goals," Grace added. "He'll say, 'Now I understand what my dad was feeling.'" Grace's older sister, Joy Upshaw Margerum, 47, is an accomplished track athlete in her own right. She won three national age-group Masters titles earlier this month, including (of course) the long jump. Grace doubts she will follow the Masters path - at least not until she reaches 50 - but she admires what her sister has achieved. "The Masters thing is just great," she said. "Part of why Joy loves it so much is she never really got to where she wanted to in college because she had so many things going on."

Joy and husband Ken Margerum, the former Stanford and NFL wide receiver, have two daughters, Sunny and Windy, who are carrying on the tradition. Sunny, who just finished her sophomore year in high school, jumped 18-10 and reached the state meet. "I've coached her in the long jump, which was so fun for me," Upshaw said. "She's a foot ahead of me in high school, and she's only 16."

Windy, about to enter the fourth grade, already has sailed 11-2. And she wants more. "She sees me with Sunny and she gets a little competitive. She wants to make sure I'm coaching her too, not just Sunny," Grace said. "She is the one who is going to pass all of us if she wants to stick with it."

Monte Upshaw said he has gone out of his way with both his daughters and grandkids to avoid pushing sports on them. "I'm just glad they did it on their own," he said. "Sunny and Windy both have great focus and competitiveness."

Grace, who finished 10th at the Athens Olympics in 2004, is coming off a personal-best jump of 22-7 at the U.S. trials. She's confident she can reach the medal stand this time. "Anything less than that will be a disappointment," she said. "I feel like I'm ready."

A proud father can't wait to watch. Monte's father died young, and he appreciates the gift of being here to soak in what all his girls are achieving. "I feel so fortunate to be able to see this," he said. "It's really exciting to see Gracie compete at this level. She's maximized her potential by the way she works at it."