HOTSEAT- Golden gal: Olympian Shoop brings home Beijing bling

Lindsay Shoop

Nearly 60 years after Norma Desmond said the immortal words, "I'm ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille," Olympic rower Lindsay Shoop takes the prize for best line uttered while descending a staircase this side of Sunset Boulevard. As she came down the stairs of her parents' Albemarle home for her Hotseat interview, Shoop said, "Do you like my necklace?"

Of course, it wasn't just any bauble hanging from her neck. Indeed, for making a dramatic entrance, there's nothing like an Olympic gold medal.

"People always want to touch it, put it around their necks," says Shoop. "I've hardly taken it off. The ribbon is already getting a little frayed from showing it off so much."

In 2001, the prospect of Shoop toting such prestigious hardware seemed distant. Though she had been a star volleyballer at the Covenant School, the Charlottesville native figured she'd forego the rigorous training schedule of a student-athlete in order focus on academics at the University of Virginia. However, she eventually found the pull of athletic competition too strong.

"All my friends were athletes," she says, "and since I'm tall everyone assumed I was an athlete. It really made me miss being part of a team."

Luckily for Shoop, she would run into UVA rowing coach Kevin Sauer on Grounds one day.

"As soon as he heard there was a First Year girl who was 6' 1" and not playing a sport, he tried to get me to row," she says. "So around that time, I ran into him and he told me, 'It's never too late.'"

So, in her Third Year at UVA, she joined the women's eight team. It didn't take long for her to make a splash.

Shoop twice earned first-team All-American honors during her UVA career, in both 2003 and 2004, and went on to win three more ACC Championships wearing the orange and blue. Only two years after taking to the water, she was wearing the red, white, and blue as a member of the U.S. National team. 

Still, countless hours spent on the water, and in the weight room could not have trained her for the moment she and her teammates would win an Olympic gold medal.

"When they put the gold medal around your neck," she explains, "it's as if the medal itself has this field of energy around it that just overpowers you. My right leg began to shake, and I just could not stop crying. My definition of human emotion has expanded."

The thrill of victory was so strong, in fact, as to be addictive.

"It won't be long," Shoop says, "before I start training for London in 2012."

Age: 27

What do you like best about Charlottesville? Access to an airport. I live in Princeton, New Jersey these days, and that's an island compared to Charlottesville.

Least? The airport doesn't go many places.

Favorite hangout here? St. Maarten's Cafe. The best drinks, the best wings, and it's okay that it doesn't have any windows.

Most overrated virtue? Being nice is totally overrated.

People would be surprised to know about you: I'm afraid of the dark.

What would you change about yourself? My nose

Proudest accomplishment? An Olympic gold medal wasn't too bad.

People find most annoying about you: I talk a lot.

Whom do you admire? My volleyball coach at Covenant, Heidi Morse, and my rowing coach at UVA, Kevin Sauer.

Favorite book? Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. That changed the way I look at reading.

Subject that causes you to rant? How little people know about rowing

Biggest 21st-century thrill? Winning a gold medal

Biggest 21st-century creep out? Getting Facebooked by people I don't know

What do you drive? A '99 Volkswagen Jetta

In your car CD player right now: A mix my roommate at UVA made. It's got everything on it, like Shakira, Rob Thomas, 50 Cent, Eminem.

Next journey? To the White House to meet the president with the rest of the team

Most trouble you've ever gotten in? There are things about First Year initiation I don't like to talk about.

Regret: Not being more open with people

Favorite comfort food: Toast

Always in your refrigerator: Milk

Must-see TV: All the shows from the Law & Order franchise, and of course Sex and the City.

Describe a perfect day: Sitting on a beach, not too hot, listening to flamenco guitar, smelling salt in the air and feeling sand in your hair

Walter Mitty fantasy: To go back and do all the things I missed while training

Who'd play you in the movie? People have always told me Sandra Bullock. I guess she's kinda goofy and has the brown hair.

Most embarrassing moment? In fourth grade, I had to turn in a permission slip for a field trip. I was so proud that I had it ready, but then my cat threw up on it.  Really.

Best advice you ever got? Get as good as you can, and stay out of the politics.

Favorite bumper sticker? "This vehicle may wreck or explode for no apparent reason."