Olympian Lars Nielsen Returns to Lake Casitas

 

What rowing taught me is to be aware of what your dream is,
to know that it takes time, and to stick to it — even when it hurts.
It unites people to be part of a rowing team. We push each other.
We learn to be proud of our successes and to handle our failures.
Do your homework. And practice — practice a lot.
I came from an ordinary family, and I can
tell you
that dreams come true.”

— Lars Nielsen, speaking to Casitas Rowing Junior Team
August 5, 2014

30 Years After Winning Bronze for Denmark, Lars Nielsen Rows on Lake Casitas

Lars H. Nielsen of Copenhagen knows what it means to set a goal and see it through. 

At seven years old, watching the Mexico Summer Olympics on television, he told his father he would one day walk in the Opening Ceremonies. Sixteen years later, that dream became a reality as he watched a man with a jetpack fly across the stadium at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, to the roar of 100,000 spectators. Nielsen, representing Denmark, had grown into a powerful, 6’5″ rower in the Mens Four. He remembers being hyper-focused on his upcoming event. “It was all about my oar, my boat, my team,” he recalls.  

Lars, Lone, Eric & WendyFast forward 30 years, and on August 5, 2014, Nielsen’s goal was to be back at Lake Casitas at the time of his race, 10:08 a.m. He reached out to Eric and Wendy Gillett, founders of a relatively new rowing club with a strong interest in preserving the Olympic legacy of the reservoir. Casitas Rowing had formed in 2008 with secondhand boats and a similarly inspired dream. Now at 150 members with programs for kids and adults, the club welcomed Nielsen and his wife, Lone, with a fleet of Casitas Green boats including a recently-donated Resolute Four, the Marguerite, ready for a celebratory row. 

At 7 a.m. that Tuesday, heavy fog obscured the lake as Nielsen tied into the Four with three Casitas masters rowers. Eric Gillett guided the boat from a launch, taking the rowers toward the start line, then turning to head toward the finish line of the former 2,000 meter course. 

The fog lifted, allowing Nielsen to identify where the grandstands had been, the boathouse tents, the extensive dock system, all removed shortly after the event. Nielsen recalled that the top favorites predicted to medal in his event didn’t include the Danish Four. In the last 200 meters however, he and his crew of Michael Jessen, Per Rasmussen and Erik Christiansen accelerated into their best-ever sprint, moving from 6th place to 3rd to capture Bronze in 6:07.72. They joined New Zealand (Gold) and the United States (Silver) on the podium. 
 

“What rowing taught me,” Nielsen said, speaking to Casitas Junior rowers gathered to meet him, “is to be aware of what your dream is, to know that it takes time, and to stick to it — even when it hurts.” As the second shortest on the team, Nielsen said he had to learn to speak with confidence and work hard to reach his goals.

“It unites people to be part of a rowing team. We push each other. We learn to be proud of our successes and to handle our failures. Do your homework. And practice — practice a lot. I came from an ordinary family, and I can tell you that dreams come true.”

And his Bronze medal? “At home, in Denmark,” said Nielsen. “I had it in my pocket after the Olympics, going through Los Angeles airport security. It set off the machines, so they pulled me aside. It was fun to explain what it was, but these days it stays home.” 

Also see:
About Us > Lake Casitas
Lake Casitas and the Olympics
View Video Highlights of the 1984 Olympic Opening Ceremonies (Olympic.org)

Lars Nielsen rows a Four August 5, 2014, with Dan Richards, Paul Lepiane and Barbara Hoyt of Casitas Rowing. Photo: Terri Laine

  

 

 

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