Olympic gold medalist Holly Metcalf didn’t have international glory on her mind when she came to Mount Holyoke in 1976. She was looking for “something different, something on the water,” and found the two-year-old club rowing program.
With no previous experience, she made the team and soon discovered she was good at it. She became so good, in fact, that she left college to try out for the 1980 Olympic rowing team. She didn’t make it, but it inspired her to keep rowing with the U.S. national team until the next Olympic tryouts. That time she not only made the team, she also took home an 1984 gold medal as part of the U.S. women’s eight oars with coxswain team at the Los Angeles games.
Armed with her MHC degree in English and music, an Olympic win, and many World Championship medals, Metcalf returned to Mount Holyoke to coach crew.
In the 1990s, she earned a master’s degree at Harvard, studying rowing as a metaphor for girls’ and women’s psychological and emotional development. That prompted her to start Row as One programs that have initiated women into the demanding sport and inspired advanced rowers to be more competitive.
Metcalf’s career mirrors a larger wave of women nationally getting increasingly serious about athletics.
“Rowing has become my metaphor for life,” she says. “Rowing has pushed me to go beyond what is comfortable, to set new goals and create new visions of what I want to achieve in life.”