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Issue Date: January 2014 Issue

Most Interesting People 2014: Felice Mueller

Felice Mueller


WHY SHE'S INTERESTING: "Olympic hopeful" isn't a phrase tied to many Cleveland athletes, but for Mueller there's no better description. The Shaker Heights native has enjoyed success with USRowing, most recently by winning gold in the 2013 World Rowing Championships in South Korea. Her goal is to compete in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

BUDGET ATHLETE: Mueller, who isn't paid to compete, trains 40 hours a week in Princeton, N.J. She baby-sits and coaches rowing to support her athletic endeavors. The payoff, Mueller says, is traveling to exotic locales such as Amsterdam, Belarus and Beijing to row in some of the most beautiful water in the world. "I really think putting in such effort to master something teaches you the most valuable lessons that anyone could ever really learn."

blue crush: One of her favorite spots is on Michigan's Belleville Lake. "It's really nice to be up on the lake really early in the morning. No one else is out, and there are the trees, and the sun is rising."

SO CLOSE: In South Korea, Mueller raced teams from rowing strongholds Germany and Australia across 2,000 meters of open water. Her four-person scull ended with a heat time of 6 minutes and 28 seconds, just missing a world record. "We were 3 seconds off."

No Pain, No Gain: Rowers turn their entire bodies into pendulums, gliding back and forth to will their boat across the water in an all-out sprint. "It feels terrible. It's just as hard as you can go for like 6 1/2 minutes. Usually in the first 25 strokes your whole body is burning and you want to stop. But we've all done this long enough that you have to have some sort of mental clarity, in a way, to just be able to put all that aside and focus on the task."

ZEN MASTER: Mueller loves the challenges presented by rowing. "You have to be strong. It's physically and mentally exhausting. You're doing the same thing over and over again. It's a really cool, almost Zen-like thing when you can get in a rhythm and figure out how to use your big muscles and make it feel easy."

park it: Mueller doesn't make it home to Ohio often. When she does, she treats herself to walks in the Cleveland Metroparks and hummus wraps at the West Side Market. "I don't get the sense [in New Jersey] that there's quite as much opportunity for weird, cool things to spring up anywhere, and I really like that about Cleveland."

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