Quick, name the most dominant team in the 2016 Rio Olympics.
It might not be who you think.
The correct answer is the U.S. Women’s Eights Rowing team, which boasts a dynasty of 10 straight World Championship or Olympic titles heading into the August 8 start of competition.
Although Eleanor Logan of Stanford and Meghan Musnicki of Ithica college are the only two returning Olympians on the squad, other members of the team will bring differing sets of world-class credentials onto the water at Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon in Rio.
Notre Dame’s Amanda Polk, Michigan State’s Emily Regan, Colgate’s Lauren Schmetterling, and the University of Washington's Kerry Simmonds and Katelin Snyder own shares of the World Record time of 5:54.160, set at the 2013 World Rowing Cup in Lucerne, Switzerland.
Tessa Gobbo won a NCAA championship with the Brown University in 2011, one of a record seven the Bears women have won since the NCAA founded the championships in 1997. Logan led Stanford to its lone NCAA championship in 2009, and Simmons’s Washington Huskies women’s team won three of the first five NCAA titles awarded. Snyder was coxswain on the Huskies’ storied men’s program, which has won seven of the last 10 Intercollegiate Rowing Championships. (Men’s rowing is not an NCAA sport.)
A dynastic team comprised of only two returning Olympians seems anomalous in its face, but it is a testament to the strength of the ultra-competitive world of U.S. Women’s Rowing. The nine women competing in Rio were culled from an original group of 28. And while this crop of Olympians own a combined 28 gold medals in World Championship and Olympic competition, women who have earned a total of 15 gold medals were left behind. The camaraderie amid the competition for an Olympic berth made for a bittersweet moment when the final team was finally announced.
"There was such joy, but also such sorrow. Everybody was competing for these spots—for years, really—but at the same time everybody is so close and so supportive of each other. To go to Rio without them is brutal," Snyder told Sports Illustrated.
The intensity of the success of the women’s team serves as inspiration for their male counterparts, who also train at the Finn M.W. Caspersen Rowing Center in Princeton, New Jersey.
"The hardest thing to do in sports is to win and then keep winning," U.S. Men’s rower Seth Weil told The Wall Street Journal. "They have built this culture that keeps them winning, and now it’s like a freight train."
According to USRowing.org, the physical demands of the 2,000-meter race are comparable to those endured by cross-country skiers and long distance speed skaters, and physiologists claim that rowing the 1.25 mile stretch is equal to playing back-to-back basketball games.
The Americans will face boats from Canada, Great Britain, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Romania and Russia with the goal of bringing home the gold in the August 13 final.