Photo courtesy of Long Beach State Rowing.
A dedication ceremony for the Joan Lind Van Blom Bridge, hosted by 3rd District Councilwoman Suzie Price, will take place in Jack Nichol Park on Saturday, March 25 at 11:00AM to honor the first woman to win an Olympic medal for rowing in the United States.
The Joan Lind Van Blom Bridge will replace the name of the Alamitos Bay Bridge, located on Pacific Coast Highway, between Loynes Drive and Second Street.
In August 2016, Senator Janet Nguyen announced that the California State Legislature approved Senate Concurrent Resolution 102, authorizing and renaming the bridge in memory of Long Beach native Van Blom.
“Joan Lind Van Blom is one of the most remarkable athletes to ever live and was even more impressive for her dedication to her Long Beach community,” Price said in a statement. “Having a bridge in east Long Beach named after her will serve as a daily reminder of the positive legacy she has left behind.”
Van Blom passed away at the age of 62 in August 2015 after an almost two-year battle with complications from glioblastoma multiforme, an aggressive and incurable form of brain cancer.
Van Blom’s life’s accomplishments include winning silver in the single sculls in the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal and silver in the quadruple sculls in the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, earning 14 national titles, medaling internationally as a coach in the Pan American Games and currently holding 11 world records on the ergometer. She is also an inductee of the Wilson High School, 49er (Long Beach State), Century Club and National Rowing halls of fame.
Even after being diagnosed, Van Blom continued rowing and competing. In October 2014, she and the Long Beach Rowing Association crew won first place in the women’s eight at Head of the Charles. Five months later, she raced and won again at San Diego Crew Classic.
Long Beach State women’s team head coach Ian Simpson had the opportunity to coach Van Blom in 2009 as she prepared to compete on the ergometer.
“I suspect my coaching methods were very different to what she was used to, but she followed the program and won yet another championship,” Simpson told the Post. “In reality, Joan was so good, such a great competitor, that she would have won regardless who was coaching her.”
In March 2015, the Beach Crew Alumni Association dedicated the Long Beach State women’s Resolute eight as the Joan Lind Van Blom in a ceremony. Van Blom was the first member of the women’s team in 1970.
“We were very proud to boldly add the name, Joan Lind Van Blom, to the bows of our new boat,” Simpson said. “Joan’s presence at the dedication ceremony a few months before her death was very special, not only for myself, but also for all the members of the Long Beach State rowing team. [...]The Long Beach State women meet for practice everyday next to the Joan Lind Van Blom. It remains their favorite boat, and they are proud to carry Joan’s name wherever they race.”
In addition to the impact Van Blom made in the rowing community, she was also a teacher with the Long Beach Unified School District for 35 years and the district’s first physical education curriculum leader.
In a ceremony dedicated to Van Blom at the Pete Archer Rowing Center in October 2015, a recording of her voice concluded the speeches. During her last words, she recited William Blake.
“He who bends to himself a joy doth the winged life destroy. But he who kisses the joy as it flies lives the eternity’s sunrise,” she said. “That touched me. That’s it. That’s life. You can’t hold onto stuff. You enjoy it while it’s there. Carpe diem, and seize the day, and this is it, and be here now. Kiss the joy as it flies. That’s the joy of life.”
A reception before the event will be held at 10:00AM at the Pete Archer Rowing Center, located at 5750 Boathouse Lane followed by the dedication ceremony at 11:00AM at Jack Nichol Park, located at 6200 Costa Del Sol Way.