Kristine O’Brien and the U.S. women’s eight rowing team fell just short of earning an Olympic medal.
Competing in the final Friday morning, the U.S. came away with a fourth-place finish in 6 minutes, 2.78 seconds. Canada won gold (5:59.13), followed by New Zealand taking silver (6:00.04) and China finishing third (6:01.21) for bronze. Australia finished fifth (6:03.92) while Romania placed sixth (6:04.06).
The Americans entered the day having won each of the last three gold medals in the event.
The performance capped off the first Olympic appearance for O’Brien, a 29-year-old Massapequa Park native and St. John the Baptist graduate. She received plenty of support back in her hometown during the race, as her family and friends filled into Johnny McGorey’s Pub to attend a watch party.
"Obviously I train and race to win, so it’s disappointing," O’Brien told Newsday in a phone interview from Tokyo. "But I’m proud of our performance and I’m proud to represent the United States of America. This has been the greatest honor. We fought the whole way down the course and down to the very last stroke. We never lost any belief that we would pull off the win."
"We knew going in that it would be a tough race," O’Brien’s father, Steve Moore, told Newsday after the race. "Everyone in those countries is working hard and competing. There’s a lot of experience in all those boats. I’m sad and my heart goes out to Kristine. I know how hard she trains."
With tears filling his eyes, Moore commended his daughter for gaining the opportunity to compete on the world stage.
"I’m so proud of her," Moore said. "She’s a champion in our eyes. But what an accomplishment. We’re just unbelievably proud of her."
Entering the gold-medal race, O’Brien had earned four medals while competing in the World Championships, including gold as both a member of the 2018 Women’s Eight U.S. team and the 2015 Women’s Four squad.
She also won the 2012 varsity eight and team title with the University of Virginia at the 2012 NCAA Championships. Named the 2010 ACC Freshman of the Year, O’Brien was a member of the ACC Crew of the Year from 2010-2013 as well.
Cut from the Olympic team in 2016, O’Brien had considered giving up rowing and returned to Virginia to serve as an assistant coach before resuming her career shortly thereafter. She touched on her arduous journey toward achieving her dream of becoming an Olympian.
"To get to this level, it doesn’t come easy," O’Brien said. "I think my biggest takeaway is I’m proud. I really am so proud of myself. It really hasn’t been an easy road to get here and I never stopped believing in myself. I never stopped working and grinding day in and day out. I never did."
"I know we all have to say we’re proud of our kids," O’Brien’s mother, Kathleen O’Brien-Moore said. "But I have to say, she had a dream, she followed it and she made it happen."
Entering the gold medal race, O’Brien had previously earned four medals while competing in the World Championships, including gold as both a member of the 2018 Women’s Eight U.S. team and the 2015 Women’s Four squad.
She also won the 2012 varsity eight and team title with the University of Virginia at the 2012 NCAA championships. Named the 2010 ACC Freshman of the Year, O’Brien was a member of the ACC Crew of the Year from 2010-2013 as well.
O’Brien’s twin sister, Melanie, detailed Kristine’s arduous journey to the Olympic stage.
"She’s so hard-working," Melanie O’Brien said. "She has highs and lows but always comes out on top. She was cut from the 2016 Olympic team and didn’t know if she wanted to keep rowing, but she decided to go back to the University of Virginia for a year, was an assistant coach there and fell in love with the sport of rowing again. And then she decided to pursue her Olympic dream again."