Socks mean Pearson is never alone
Shelley Pearson never truly feels alone in the single sculls thanks to a pair of socks she wore in each of her races at the Olympic Games.
A gift from her best friend and former team-mate, Mary MaGinnis, the unremarkable-looking white socks have a symbolic significance which the Bermudian draws upon whenever the going gets tough.
It was after the pair graduated from Harvard University, having helped the Crimson win the Ivy League Championships in the eights in 2013, when MaGinnis handed her “lucky” clothing item to Pearson.
MaGinnis was taking a break from the sport while entering the world of work, but still wanted to share in Pearson's rowing journey.
“The socks are very old as we graduated in 2013 and she'd already been wearing them for races previously,” said Pearson, who represented the United States alongside MaGinnis at the 2008 World Championships in Linz, Austria.
“We now have this thing whereby we say there are always two of us in the boat rather than one.”
Pearson received a motivational e-mail from MaGinnis prior to Saturday morning's C final where she finished fourth in a time of 7min 34.41sec.
It was her fastest time of the competition, held at the Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas in Leblon, with the 25-year-old finishing sixteenth overall.
“We send each other e-mails all of the time and she's always right there with me,” Pearson said. “She sent me an e-mail this morning and I was very excited to read that.
“She's at Penn State University now and has actually returned to rowing with Vesper Boat Club.”
Sanita Purspure of Ireland won the C final in 7:27.60, with Lina Saltyte of Lithuania second in 7:30.38 and Anna Malvina Svennung of Sweden third in 7:32.54.
Pearson still believes her best performance in Rio came in Tuesday's quarter-finals, where she finished fourth narrowly missing out on a place in the semi-finals.
“It was a pretty good race,” said Pearson of the C final.
“I wanted to be with those top three girls, and I was, although it wasn't enough to beat them.
“The quarter-final will probably stay as the best race of my life. I think it's hard to have two of those in the same week and today was all I had.
“It was weird out there. It felt like both a headwind and tailwind at various moments, which is a strange combination. It was a bit bouncy but relatively fast.”
Pearson became Bermuda's only women's Olympic rower in Rio and the first islander to compete at the Games since Jim Butterfield in Munich in 1972.
Considering her preparations were limited by studying for a master's degree in business administration at Oxford University, she said she was delighted with her displays.
“I'm really proud of myself when I reflect back on it,” said Pearson, who has been staying in an apartment near the rowing venue.
“I have a lot of things to learn and I now understand why people do multiple [Olympics] because you learn so much in that first one.
“It's something that's hard to prepare yourself for unless you've done one.
“I'm really excited to rejoin the rest of the Bermuda team as I haven't been able to live with them so far.”
Competing at the Olympics has whetted Pearson's appetite and she is open to donning Bermuda's colours again in the future.
“I'm really excited to find a job once I finish my MBA, but my love for rowing hasn't gone,” she said.
“I haven't made a decision yet about my future. More than anything I would like to start a junior rowing programme in Bermuda.”