Chicago

‘Complete the Collection': Olympic Rower Hopes to Bring Home Gold to Add to Parents' Silver and Bronze

Chicago
Image from iOS (51)
Image from iOS (51)

Alie Rusher isn’t just hoping to follow in her parents’ footsteps, she’s hoping to go one step further.

The daughter of two Olympians, Rusher knew early on what the Olympic dream was.

“It’s funny, I always thought when I was little you just kind of decided,” Rusher, who has ties to both Glenview, Illinois and West Bend, Wisconsin, said. “You know, you’re asked what do you want to be when you grow up and I was like, ‘I want to be a doctor and I want to be an Olympian, and I just kind of thought that if you just wanted to be an Olympian you could do it.”

Rusher’s mother, Cindy, was a national champion in 1984 and rowed in both the 1988 and 1992 Olympics, earning a silver medal in the women’s four in 1992. Her father is a member of the Harvard Hall of Fame and was a three-time collegiate national champion as well as a two-time Olympic rower, earning bronze in 1988 and1992.

To say rowing has since become a family affair wouldn’t quite do it justice.

Rusher, her sister and her brother have all excelled in the sport, competing at high levels, including together as Rusher and sister both rowed as teammates at Stanford University.

But even with a family of rowers and Olympians for parents, Rusher didn’t always know rowing would be her sport. After all, she played volleyball and hockey in the winters and even did Nordic skiing. For a time, she thought volleyball was it.

 

“I really loved [volleyball],” she said. “But as I got into the travel leagues it just seemed really political and really, you know, you can win based on talent in volleyball – at least at whatever level I was at – and that sort of frustrated me because I just wanted to work really hard and get there.”

So in high school, her mom introduced her to rowing and the rest was history.

“I think when I took my first few rowing strokes I kind of knew that was the sport for me,” she said.

Now, after plenty of hard work that her younger self could never have anticipated, Rusher is going for the one thing no one in her family has achieved yet – a gold medal.

“I feel like I’m going into this with everything to gain and neither of [my parents] won a gold medal so I feel like that’s… we’ve always joked about like completing the collection,” she said.

Her Olympic experience won’t quite be the same as her parents, however.

“I would definitely prefer to have my parents there and all my supporters,” Rusher said. “My mom actually just showed me a video from her silver medal race in the ’92 Olympics and her dad videotaped it and you can hear him describing the race and cheering for her through the finish line and his voice kind of breaks and I feel like I didn’t realize how much I would miss having my family there until I saw what it was like from my grandparents’ perspective when they watched her race.”

But her family will still be watching as they pass the Olympic torch to Rusher.

“I think they’re organizing a big watch party,” Rusher said. “I have a ton of family around Wisconsin, which is where my parents live and I would guess that there are going to be like 50 to maybe 100 people that are all watching together,” she said.