2012 Olympic Gold Medalist Esther Lofgren on the 'Backwards' Experience

After taking gold in London, Esther Lofgren and her teammates from the U.S. women's squad have been on a whirlwind tour, most recently attending the Philadelphia premiere of the new feature film, Backwards, written, produced, and directed by Sarah Megan Thomas (who also plays one of the lead roles). Here, Esther shares a little about her experience of the premiere, which included a meeting with Thomas, as well as her thoughts on the film. Read on!
Thursday night, I headed to the Philadelphia Art Museum – as famous for the "Rocky" steps out front as the amazing collection inside – for the red carpet premiere of Backwards. Joining me were teammates Sara Hendershot, from the Olympic pair, and Adrienne Martelli and Megan Kalmoe, Olympic bronze medallists in the quad. We decided to have fun with our first red carpet, and borrowed designer dresses for the occasion. I even managed to find one that was floor-length while wearing four-inch heels 
We arrived on the red carpet and met Sarah Megan Thomas, the writer, director and producer of the film. She's lovely, quick to smile and incredibly driven – all great qualities for a rower! After a few photos, we headed inside to watch the film. 
My expectations for rowing movies aren't particularly high. The Boy in Blue? Oxford Blues? The first scene in The Skulls? And who can forget Rowing Through
But "Backwards" was, in fact, one of the best sports movies I've seen. It certainly captures a modern team boat rower's experience extremely well. And it captures the competitive drive of rowers – that urge to thrash ourselves, to sacrifice everything for the shot at a seat in the boat, to approach everything as something to be won – so well that it pulled at my heart. I'm not a particularly sentimental person, so that's saying something. 
Having lived this life for several years now, I also thought that Thomas portrayed those around the rowers well, too – the very supportive parents who want their child to be happy, even if nearly all of what they see is a poor, exhausted athlete who is too immersed in an obscure sport to care much about the real world. Or the ex-boyfriend that you had to break things off with because of rowing (and the one who dumped you because you cared more about rowing than you did about him.) Or the coach who uses whatever tools necessary to get the desired results. And Backwards also paints the main character's relationships with these figures very well. 
As my boatmate Susan Francia put it, the great thing about Backwards is that the things that are a little off – the things that make you shake your head as a rower – were all little things. No, our team doesn't all put our hands in for a group cheer just after getting reamed out after a bad erg test. But Backwards captures that horrible glance down the row of ergs as you finish your test, looking for the girl you know you have to beat, and seeing that she's already done and staring at you. And it tells the joy of victory, the beauty of flat, calm water through a rower's eyes, and the appreciation for the journey of a rowing career, not just the final race. 
So, both wearing my rowing hat and without it, I highly encourage you to go see Backwards. And bring your teammates, because they'll like it too (and so that you're not the only one in the theater eating puppy chow with your long legs sticking out in the aisle). 
-Esther Lofgren
Thanks very much to Esther for her take on the film – now I guess it's high time that we go track down a ticket ourselves! Read all about Esther's journey to London 2012 on her blog, the aptly named 'Harder. Better. Faster. Stronger.'


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