Speed5 Interview with coxswain Marcus McElhenney, Olympic Bronze 2008


SAANICH, CANADA - OCTOBER 30:  A member of the...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Marcus is a coxswain for US Rowing with a serious pedigree. Bio for Marcus
Marcus has medals in the Eight, coxed four and coxed pair as well as an Olympic Bronze Medal from the 2008 Mens Eight

WOLF – So besides coxing do you do any other sports, either to stay at weight, or just general health, or do you do them just because you are a competitive bastard that likes to win?

MARCUS – I love to run and do it quite a lot. There is something about putting the sneakers on and taking off out the door. I like the fact that I can just leave the World behind with all its stresses and worries and well, not think about anything. There is an added bonus too. For me, the best way to see any city is while running through the streets. When traveling, either for rowing, work or fun, the first thing I do is hit the streets running. There is a perspective and experience that can only be experienced that way. Weight is not an issue for me, but you are right in your question…I am a competitive bastard. Beating people at just about anything is an obsession. Probably to a fault.

WOLF – Best Race / Worst Race – we want the good with the bad

MARCUS – Oddly enough my best and worst races were both at the 2005 World Championships in Gifu, Japan. That year was my first year in The Eight. I was young, dumb and really had no idea what I was doing. To be honest I was a little stressed out due to doubling up in the coxed four and it all came to a head during the heat. We were barreling down the course in the lead and somewhere about 400m to go, I started spewing forth some of the most incoherent and unintelligible ramblings you could possibly imagine. Instead of moving during out sprint, we basically went slower.

After I crossed the line, someone (I think it was Beau) asked what the hell was that? I really had no idea and responded as such. For some reason my brain switched into jack a$$ mode and threw planning and preparations to the wind. I was mortified.

But after the dust settled, Teti and Volpenhein pulled me aside. They basically said Dude, you got this. Knock off the bull crap and bring your A game. We got you. It was weird, for the first time I realized that it was not me against the world, but I had a team and support behind me. We were in this together. I was not going to cox this race for me, but I was going to do my best for them.

It was the start of a new philosophy in coxing for me. Basically it did not matter if I won or lost because it was not about me. What was important was that I do my best for them. So you know what happened? In the final, I did my best. The by product of doing my best was winning a World Championship Title, but that was not the highlight for me. After racing twice, not sleeping and not eating well I was tired, hungry, exhausted and just wanted to be alone. So after we got our medals and things started to calm down, I snuck away to grab some lunch. While eating in a very large and empty dining hall at the race course, Volp came into the lunch room sat down across from me not saying a word. A few minutes later, as I finished up and was preparing to leave, he simply said You did good today, Kid, you did good. To me, that was worth more then any medal or title. It is funny the stuff you remember and ends up being important to you.

WOLF – Should they bring the coxed pair back to the olympics?

MARCUS – Are you kidding me?! Have you even been in a coxed pair?! Heck no! That is the most painful event for both rowers AND coxswains! Good Lord, what is wrong with you to even ask that?! But in all seriousness, I do not think it has its place in the Olympics anymore. There is just something about being the best and only coxswain representing America that really appeals to me. I am sure that most coxswains (and people) would disagree, but I am used to that!

WOLF – Do you have a comment on the final selection for the 2008 eight .would it have been faster with Beery , JR or Deacon in there.

MARCUS – Duh, Of course!!!! Man, if FISA would let us race with 11 guys?! Holy crap, we would blow everyone out of the water. That is a great idea and I am going to mention it to Coach McLaren!

WOLF – What kind of law are you going to specialize in and how is law school going and how do you plan to participate in this years National Team Process with law school on your hands

MARCUS – International Business Law will eventually be my focus, but right now I am taking the normal required (boring) first year classes. It is going well and I really enjoy it. This past weekend I was involved in a Moot Court competition which was awesome and just reaffirmed my commitment to becoming a litigator. As for this upcoming year, I have no idea how I am going to balance it all. Last year I definitely took a step back and was able to race in the 2+ with Henrick and Troy which worked out well. But really my only focus is London (only 837 days left). What happens between now and then is not that important as long as I do not do anything to take away from that eventual goal. That being said, I may have to take next semester off to compete at Worlds in the eight and that is something I am definitely prepared to do. Then I will definitely take the following year off for the 16 months of preparation for London.

Extra one ( because we all know coxswains cant count accurately )

WOLF – Did that bridge move at the Head of the Charles the year the eight scraped it,, I am on the Charles everyday and I swear it moves on me once or twice a month? What did it do ? ( this is a fun one )

MARCUS – I swear that Bridge moved!!! There must be some sort of troll or leprechaun that lives under that thing and moves it to torture us. My whole purpose in attending law school is so that I can sue the cities of Boston and Cambridge for possession of the bridge. Once I have possession, I will invite everyone who it has wronged to a wild party on the banks of the Charles. Then, at the stroke of midnight I will have the bridge blow to smithereens. After we will rejoice in its demise and dance wildly like savages around its remains until dawn. I am coming for you Eliot, get ready!!!

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