Ritzel Earns Gold With U.S. Eight; Brzozowicz A Silver With Canada
ETON DORNEY, England – A pair of Yale women's rowers became Olympic medalists on Thursday. Taylor Ritzel '10 and the United States eight held off Ashley Brzozowicz's Canadian eight to win the A final by a little over a second at the Eton Dorney Rowing Center.
Ritzel and Brzozowicz '04 become the third and fourth Yale women's rowers to medal at the Olympics. Virginia Gilder '79 won a silver medal at the 1984 Olympics, while Anne Warner '77 captured a bronze in 1976.
Ritzel is the first Yalie to win a gold medal since sailor Jonathan McKee in 1984. Figure skater Sarah Hughes won a gold medal in 2002 but didn't graduate Yale until 2007. In all, 62 Yalies have now won gold. Brzozowicz becomes the 25th silver medalist in Yale's Olympic history.
"It is amazing what Taylor and Ashley have accomplished," said Will Porter, who coached both during their time at Yale. "To say I am proud is really not enough."
Ritzel and Brzozowicz were joined in the final by Tess Gerrand '10, who was in the Australian eight that finished sixth. Jamie Redman '08 was a spare for the United States.
"To have four athletes at the Olympics is a testament to Yale women's crew, the program, the athletes, the commitment of the athletic department and the university as a whole," Porter said. "Yale is about excellence - pursuing excellence on every level, both in the classroom and on the water. I am proud of all four."
Porter hopes they aren't done with Olympic competition.
"They are all young enough to go for Rio [2016 Olympics]," he said.
The silver medal was particularly sweet for Brzozowicz, who was part of the Canadian eight that finished fourth at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Brzozowicz played a key role in the resurgence of the Yale women's crew program. She sat in the No. 6 seat in the Bulldogs' varsity eight that finished second at the 2004 NCAA Championships. The Bulldogs were second as a team that year, which remains the best finish in school history. She has been a member of the Canadian team since 2006.
Ritzel was a four-year member of Yale's varsity eight, won three NCAA championships and was a three-time All-America selection.
Ritzel was inspired to row by her mother, Lana. After Taylor's swimming career was derailed by an illness in her junior year of high school, Lana set up meetings with the rowing coaches during Taylor's college visits. Lana passed away in November 2010 after a courageous battle with breast cancer.
"I am now so excited that I could give this to her. When we race, there is a move that I do in my head for her," Ritzel told reporters after the race. "When I was walking through to the course today, I saw the sun peak through the clouds. I know she is here and I dedicate to her what I've done."
The United States eight led for virtually the entire race, finishing with a time of 6:10.59. Canada crossed the line in 6:12.06. The Netherlands won the bronze medal in 6:13.12.
It marked the third time the United States has won gold in the event, along with the Los Angeles 1984 Olympic Games and the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. Only two other countries have won the women's eights gold three times: East Germany and Romania.
There is still one more member of the Yale women's crew family with a chance to win a medal. Assistant coach Sarah Trowbridge, a Guilford, Conn., native, will row in the double sculls final on Friday.
Canadian eight shows off its silver medals (Photo Courtesy of Rowing Canada)
Photo of Ritzel and US eight at top courtesy of USRowing
Report filed by Tim Bennett, Yale Sports Publicity