Never were more eyes on Oklahoma City rowers Will Newell, Robin Prendes and Tom Peszek than in London during the Olympic Games.
Rowing, with its deep tradition in England, was one of the highest attended events during the London Olympics.
“It was an absurdly large number of spectators,” Peszek said.
Newell and Prendes are members the U.S. men's lightweight four crew that finished eighth in London.
Peszek and Silas Stafford, who also train in Oklahoma City, placed eighth in the men's pair.
“It was incredible to be in that spotlight, just having that moment of fame, even if it was just for like a week or so,” Prendes said.
Newell, a 2011 graduate of Harvard, and Prendes, a 2011 graduate of Princeton, both moved to Oklahoma City because the Oklahoma River is an Olympic training site.
“Robin and I are a little spoiled in that we showed up a year out of college and trained for the Olympics and made it,” Newell said. “We were very lucky to have that timing.”
Peszek, a native of Michigan, was one of the first athletes to move to Oklahoma City after the Boathouse District was built.
All three will be competing Saturday in the Head of the Oklahoma regatta on the Oklahoma River.
Also attending Saturday's regatta festival to sign autographs will be Caryn Davies and Esther Lofgren, two members of the U.S. women's eight crew that captured the gold medal in London.
The gold medal-winning American crew was treated like rock stars in London, Newell said.
“They certainly got that treatment,” he said. “For us, probably not as much, although definitely more than we were used to.”
All three rowers described the Olympics as an amazing experience. The rowing competition was on Dorney Lake in Eton, so the athletes stayed in a satellite village for the first week of the Olympics.
When the races were completed after the first week, the American rowers and paddlers moved into the main Olympic Village in London and spent the rest of the time attending other events.
“I felt like a tourist, a spectator with an all-access pass to the Olympics,” Newell said. “Going to watch other people who are at the pinnacle of their sport compete, it's just incredible on so many levels.”
Peszek hopes it won't be just a once-in-a-lifetime event. He already is making plans for the 2016 Olympic Games.
“I intend to go,” he said. “Four years is a long time. Anything can happen, but I plan on training with that as my long-term goal.
“I am not embarrassed about how we performed (in London), but at the same time when I came back from London, while some people just want to relax and do nothing for a couple of months, I couldn't get wait to get back to training.
“I kind of had the feeling that I just got my butt kicked and I want to be on the other end of it next time.”