ETON DORNEY, ENGLAND - While the majority of her American teammates were marching into Olympic Stadium on Friday night, Megan Kalmoe was tucking herself in. The rower from St. Croix Falls, Wis., skipped the Opening Ceremony so she could get to bed by 8:45 p.m.
It might seem like a huge sacrifice to pass up an event that creates some of the Olympics' finest memories. Not to Kalmoe, who wanted to get as much sleep as possible before her race Saturday morning. She and her teammates arrived early at Eton Dorney and left with a second-place finish in their heat of the women's quadruple sculls, sending them to Monday's repechage.
Kalmoe, along with Natalie Dell, Adrienne Martelli and Kara Kohler, finished the 2,000-meter course in 6 minutes, 15.76 seconds. World champion Germany won the heat with a time of 6:13.62, and the Americans' time was the third fastest of the two heats.
Germany and Ukraine, winner of the second heat, automatically advance to Wednesday's final. The Americans and five other crews will row again Monday to determine which four will move to the final.
"No one ever comes here to finish second in any race,'' said Kalmoe, who won silver in the 2011 world championships with Martelli and Dell. "But to have a strong appearance in the heat is a really good first step for us. The last 500 [meters] is where we fell off the pace a little bit and were not able to hang on to Germany.
"I didn't watch a moment of the Opening Ceremonies. Our goal was to come here and have a really good performance this morning, and we were excited about the way it went.''
A crowd of 30,000 ventured to the countryside west of London to take in the first day of rowing, a popular sport in Britain. Sunshine glinted off the water at the Eton College Rowing Centre near Windsor Castle, the official residence of the Queen. The lake is tucked into a thoroughly British setting, surrounded by hedged meadows filled with sheep.
As the boats glided down the course, a wave of cheering from the spectators followed them, creating a lively atmosphere. Kalmoe, a Minneapolis native, said she has found a home in the bigger boat after her fifth-place finish in the women's doubles in the 2008 Olympics. She is particularly pleased with how well -- and how quickly -- the four teammates have meshed.
They appeared strong and unified Saturday in their international debut as a foursome. Kohler, 21, is the newcomer, and Kalmoe said the group naturally found its rhythm as it trained together toward the Olympics.
All of them turned in early Friday night, despite a brief racket caused by the Australian and Dutch rowers -- who staged their own mini-ceremony, parading in the courtyard at the satellite Olympic Village at Royal Holloway University of London in Surrey. Kalmoe said her team needs to maintain that focus, and if it can continue improving as rapidly as it already has, she expects it to be in good position to medal.
"One of the exciting things about being in this lineup is that we learn from all our experiences really, really well," she said. "What we take away from each race, and how we adapt and apply that to the next race, is a strength of ours.
"We're not afraid to race the rep on Monday. We're looking forward to having another race, and I think we're going to just keep getting faster. We came here to race for a medal, and that's what we intend to do."