It has been a long journey for Maggie Hogan.
At 37, the Huntington Beach resident who trains at Newport Aquatic Center has made her first Olympic Games in kayaking. Hogan will compete in Rio in the women's single kayak (K1W) 500-meter race, which has preliminaries and semifinals on Aug. 17. The finals are the following day.
Hogan is a 14-time national champion who won bronze in the 1,000 meters, a non-Olympic event, at the 2015 World Championships. Then, in May, she became the first American to qualify for Rio in the canoe sprint by placing second in the K1W 500-meter event at the Pan American Sprint Canoe/Kayak Championships and Olympic qualifier in Georgia.
Hogan, a Philadelphia native and former collegiate swimmer at UC Santa Barbara, took some time for an email interview with the Daily Pilot before heading to Rio.
Question: You have been to the Olympics as a training partner. How special does it feel to go as a competitor?
Answer: I did get to go to the Games in 2008, but it was as a Training Partner and a very different experience. I was so glad to be at the Games to support Team USA and my teammate, but at the same time it was an outsider's perspective and I had prepared to be there as an athlete. It was very exciting and also very emotional. I had just missed qualifying by less than a second.
This time is very different! Qualifying for Rio was a dream come true, and my last attempt. I've been a fan of the Games since I was a kid and to represent the U.S. on this stage is unbelievable. I owe a lot to my fantastic coach, who took a very different approach with me leading up to these Games.
Q: You are the reigning world bronze medalist in the K1 women's 1,000-meter race, and you were first at the Olympic Trials. Do you feel like you come into Rio with some momentum?
A: I almost left the sport two years ago because I was in a slump and not improving. I had tried to qualify for the Olympics twice and failed. I asked Michele Eray if she would take over my program, so I could hopefully end my career on a season I could be proud of. I wanted to leave the sport with my head held high and not on a sour note. Since then, the past two seasons of my career have been the best by far. I've had the most fun and won some races (and lost some races). My goal in Rio is to have the best performance of my career, and I think I'm on track.
Q: Is there anything from a technical aspect that you are trying to tighten up or improve on before Rio?
A: Our kayaks are the most unstable boats you will ever try, so technique is a very difficult thing to master. I work on technique every day, and right now we are just fine tuning everything. We are fine-tuning race plans and trying to squeeze every centimeter out of each stroke. We've been working with some pretty cool technology in order to do this. Motionize makes devices that can measure very small changes in speed and distance per stroke and give real-time, on-water feedback. It's been very beneficial in this build up.
Q: The NAC people have many nice things to say about your coach, Michele. How has she benefited you?
A: Well, I would not be here if it wasn't for her. Athletes get so much attention during an Olympic year, but coaches deserve a lot of the credit. I was the only U.S. athlete to qualify for Rio in Canoe Sprint and our sport does not have a support staff, or any staff for that matter. Michele wears a lot of different hats. Not only is she my coach, but she trains with me in Newport and we race together in other paddling disciplines. We are the same age, and she was an Olympic finalist in Canoe Sprint in 2008 for South Africa.
She's quite a paddler! She won the World Championships in Surf Ski in 2013, and just missed defending her title in 2015. She kicks my butt in the ocean. We have a lot of fun when we travel and I'm so glad I get to share this Olympic experience with her. She's also starting a coaching business called MultiCoach (www.multicoach.fit) so if anyone in the area is interested in some elite level coaching, she's the best in the country!
Q: Kayaking is a sport that many people might watch for the first time during the Olympics. What about it is so gratifying or rewarding for you?
A: Any time you can measure yourself against the best in the world is a true honor. Whether you win or lose, you know exactly where you stand, and that's a pretty cool thing. I think it is also a personal journey; overcoming obstacles (and there have been more than a few), and pursuing a dream is something not everyone can do. I am very fortunate to be able to wake up a paddle everyday and to end my career at the Olympic Games! It hasn't been easy, but it has been 100% worth it!
Q: What do you think about your chances in Rio?
A: My goal is to have the best race of my life in Rio and to take in the Olympic experience. Also, a huge thank you to NAC, who have supported Michele and I in this adventure. It is such a great place, run by incredible people who are passionate about water sports and just super fun to be around.