When Elle Logan was younger there were two things she wanted to do. Win an Olympic medal (she hoped in swimming) and row in the Head of the Charles when she was 90.
“Rowing is so unique,” said Logan, who’s only 25. “You can start when you’re 12 and go your whole lifetime but you’ve got to learn how to row a single. So, I’m just preparing for when I’m 90.”
Logan, who hails from Boothbay Harbor, Maine, already has two gold medals from her time in the US eight. So this year she switched to the single and finished fifth in the world championships in South Korea, the first stop on her solo road to Rio in 2016. On Sunday afternoon, though, Logan will make a cameo appearance as stroke of the Great Eight, an All-Star collection of the planet’s best scullers, including Olympic champion Miroslava Knapkova of the Czech Republic and world silver medalist Emma Twigg of New Zealand.
“That will be awesome to be in the same boat with my competitors and get to know them,” Logan said. “It’s great for our sport to just come together.”
Paddling with her new global colleagues, though, means that Logan will be taking on her star-spangled teammates, who won the world title by open water and will be looking to claim the championship event here for the seventh time in 13 years. Logan likely would have made that boat, which was stocked with rookies, but she’d determined to change course after her London reprise.
“I was really invested in the single,” she said. “I felt that was my territory.”
After years of pulling one oar with seven other driven women, pulling two by herself was an intriguing novelty and a revelation.
“It’s really a demanding boat,” Logan has found. “There’s no excuses and it’s helping me get to a new level. Because if the boat doesn’t feel good that day there’s no one else. It’s me. It’s forcing me to take ownership of my rowing and my career.”
She’d dabbled with sculling at Stanford. “We went out in singles just to mess around and I flipped then,” Logan recalled. “A lot.”
Then, the summer after she’d graduated, she jumped into a quad with Olympic stroke Caryn Davies and they won at Henley. “That was my sculling experience,” Logan says. “I thought, ‘This is fun.’ ”
But Logan, who learned to row at the Brooks School in North Andover, still was committed to the eight, whose gold medal in Beijing was the first for the Americans at a non-boycotted Games.
“Right after we won I knew I wanted to go again and defend the title,” she said. “After London, I always knew I wanted to keep rowing.”
Sculling with the international elite was alluring. Logan always had admired them, how professional and mature they were on and off the water. The only way to become one of them, she concluded, was to get herself alongside them.
“The way you learn the most is when you just jump in and become a part of it,” she figured. “Sometimes I think I’m naive but that’s the best way to learn. Put yourself on the line — and I am.”
When she went to Europe after winning the US trials, Logan suddenly found herself up against the world’s best soloists. She had no idea what to expect from her World Cup debut, which she later decided was beneficial.
“I’m not sure if I was thinking realistically,” she said. “Those are some fast women. One of the reasons why I was able to keep up was because I didn’t think about that, about how good they were, I just kept it focused on me.”
Logan ended up winning a bronze medal at the Cup stop at Eton and clinching her spot on the world squad. When she followed it up with a silver in Lucerne, beating Knapkova, Logan found herself being talked about as a contender in Korea. What she discovered there was that the best of the best tend to get faster during the summer when a global title is up for grabs.
“I’m learning that you’ve always got to be pushing the limits,” Logan said. “I already knew that, but I learned it again.”
What happened at Olympus has no bearing on the subsequent global gathering. Knapkova finished third in Korea, where Australia’s Kim Crow, the London bronze medalist, won gold. But Logan proved that she belonged in the same boat with them. Had she stuck with the eight she would have come home with gold, assuming that she was chosen for the boat.
“I don’t know if I could have made the eight this year,” Logan mused. “I don’t want to say I could just jump in.”
Logan is a sculler now and she made the psychological shift the day that she stepped into the single.
“Because you have to have that mentality,” she said. It is, she says, a revealing boat, but also rewarding. If Logan wins the trials and then earns a World Cup medal, she’s on the team. “It’s very straightforward,” she said, “and that’s fun.”
Her third quadrennium requires a different route and she’s energized and excited by that.
“Now what motivates me is, how can I be the best that I can be, how can I move the boat the best?” she said. “That’s my new obsession. Do I want to go to the Olympics and win a medal again? Yes, absolutely.”
If it’s gold, Logan will be the first US female rower to collect three. But the lifetime goal — to row on the Rivah when she’s 90 — still is out there. Only 65 years to go.