Success At Yale Made Impact On Four Olympic Rowers
Brzozowicz, Gerrand, Redman Ritzel Set For London Games
NEW HAVEN, Conn. – In 2008, Yale was at the top of the collegiate women's rowing world. The Bulldogs were in the midst of back-to-back NCAA varsity eight titles, and Jamie Redman remembers one member of the crew already looking ahead to success after Yale.
"Tess Gerrand would always joke about how she would be sitting in Australia's eight at the Olympics, look over at the Americans and wave to her fellow Elis in the American eight," Redman says.
Four years later, what was once a running gag between teammates is about to come true. Gerrand will be sitting in the Australian eight in Eton-Dorney, England, the 2012 Olympic rowing venue. When Gerrand takes a peak at the United States eight, she'll see former Yale teammate Taylor Ritzel and possibly Redman, who is an alternate for the U.S. team. In addition, if Gerrand checks out the Canadian eight, she'll find former Yalie Ashley Brzozowicz sitting in the boat.
It is the first time in Yale history that four women's rowers will be together at the Olympics.
"It's a testament to the quality of the Yale rowing program," said Redman, who graduated in 2008 and was a part of the back-to-back national champion crews. "We were surrounded by 30-odd teammates who motivated us to train hard and race harder. We had excellent coaches, who taught us the technical rowing skills needed to succeed at the elite level, and we were equipped with the boats, equipment and facilities needed to achieve rowing success."
Racing gets under way in the women's eight on Sunday with the heats. The repechege is set for next Tuesday and the final is Thursday at 7:30 a.m EDT.
In addition to the three rowers in the eights, the newest member of the Yale women's crew family, assistant coach Sarah Trowbridge, will also be competing. Trowbridge will row in the double sculls. Racing for her starts with the heats on Monday. The repechege is Tuesday and the finals are set for Friday at 5:30 a.m. EDT.
The NBC family of television networks has exclusive coverage of all of the rowing coverage at the Games.
With three of his former rowers racing in the same event for three different countries, Yale head coach Will Porter faces a dilemma.
"I wish they were all racing in separate events," Porter admits. "It will be very difficult to watch the women's eight races."
All three former Yale rowers know their experiences in New Haven helped in their dream of qualifying for the Olympics.
"I definitely learned the most from all the incredible people around me at Yale, whether it was in my classes, on my team or in different social groups," says Gerrand, a three-time All-American who was part of three NCAA championship crews. "There were always people that challenged and encouraged me to be better."
Ritzel, who has been with U.S. Rowing since she graduated in 2010, also understands the impact Yale crew had on her development.
"While the national team level is much different in terms of hours spent training, attention to detail and the physiology of athletes, rowing at Yale served as great preparation," she said. "Will Porter really cares about his athletes and has been a supporter of me through this journey."
Brzozowicz, who sat in the No. 6 seat in the Bulldogs' varsity eight that finished second at the 2004 NCAA Championships, is the veteran of the group. She is making her second Olympic appearance. She helped Canada to a fourth-place finish in the 2008 Games. What advice does she have for Olympic rookies Gerrand, Redman and Ritzel?
"I would say to be prepared for the unexpected and to really take the time to enjoy the moment," she says. "It is pretty special to be competing as an Olympian and it can go by pretty quickly."
Porter, who has guided Yale to the NCAA Championship in each of the last 12 years, isn't about to offer any advice.
"It is their time," he says. "I am honored to have these four athletes representing Yale Women's Crew. It was a pleasure to coach them, not without challenge but always rewarding as we moved forward together. It was great to see them explode as athletes but even better to see them grow as people and mature into great individuals who are confident enough to pursue their dream. They each know how incredibly proud I am of them, not just for being Olympians but for staying true to their roots, `Work hard, Go Fast, Have fun.'"
Story by Tim Bennett, Yale Sports Publicity