Penn State’s first Olympian in women’s rowing told the story of her Olympic victory in the 2012 London Games last summer Tuesday night at The All-Sports Museum, as part of the museum’s final event to celebrate Women’s History Month.
“I remember after a good two hours of just trying on all of the Ralph Lauren and Nike clothes they had given us on processing day [in London] I remember stopping and thinking to myself, ‘Who am I and how did this happen?’ ” Natalie Dell said.
The rowing career of Dell, a former Collegian staff member, began her freshman year at Penn State in 2004. She had never rowed before and fully dedicated herself to the club sport. The team did not receive varsity funding from the university, so she recalls the times the team would stay up to six hours after a home football game to clean up the stands in order to help pay their coaches for the semester.
Dell worked hard during her years at Penn State and always focused on only getting faster and faster each time.
After performing well on the national team, Dell was given the opportunity to try out for the Olympic team. The selection period occurred four weeks prior to leaving for London, giving little time to get to know and practice with the three other women in her boat.
She raced over twenty-three races over five days before being told if she had made the team or not. There were seconds, even tenths of a second that kept her and her teammates from heartbreak or finally achieving their Olympic dream, Dell said.
Dell, who was the communicator on her boat of four set the boat’s course and called directions to her teammates. She was the one that paid attention to the other boats. In their final race the United States raced against the Ukraine, Germany, Great Britain, Australia and China, to name some.
Prior to the race Dell remembers telling her teammates to take deep breaths and just focus on the next seven minutes ahead of them. She remembers the collective strength of the women rowing with her, Dell said.
Dell does not remember any philosophical thoughts going through her head during the race, but knows that during those seven minutes as she was rowing, one either starts to believe in one’s Olympic dream or begins to seriously doubt it. The United States team took bronze in that race.
“This is not just my medal, it is the United States’ medal and Penn State’s and I am very proud,” Dell said.
Part of the current Penn State crew team was in attendance to support and hear Dell’s Olympic story.
Conor Fearon (sophomore-computer science) said it was great to hear Dell’s story and hear about how much work she has put into her rowing.
“We would love to make it to the Olympics and to hear her story. There is a reason why we get up at four in the morning every morning,” Mike Joseph (sophomore-kinesiology) said.