Five former University of Washington rowers, including four in the men’s eight, made the U.S. team for the Summer Olympics in Rio at the qualifying regatta Tuesday in Lucerne, Switzerland.
The eight, with coxswain Sam Ojserkis (class of 2012) and rowers Rob Munn (’12), Hans Struzyna (’11) and Sam Dommer (’13), won a close race in the final over Poland. The top two finishers advanced.
In quadruple sculls, Canada, with Rob Gibson (’09) in the No. 2 seat, finished second to qualify for Brazil. A majority of the qualifying teams earned their Olympics berths at the 2015 World Championships.
According to gohuskies.com, Russia led over the first 1,500 meters of the 2,000-meter race in the quad sculls race, with Canada and the U.S. in second and third, respectively. As the six boats came down the stretch, New Zealand was first to make a move and was followed quickly by Canada.
Russia held off Canada at the end, but the second-place finish (with open water back to third) was good enough for Gibson and his teammates. The U.S. quad, with the Huskies’ Ben Davison (’18) rowing in the stroke seat, finished fourth, about eight-tenths of a second behind New Zealand, and did not qualify.
The men’s eight, the final event of the day, was tightly contested throughout. Poland led from the start and held onto its small lead into the final few hundred meters. With Spain falling into fifth (and last) place early on, it was a four-boat race.
At 1,500 meters, Poland held a 1.61-second edge over the American boat, which was just ahead of Italy and Australia. The gaps tightened in the final 500 meters and the U.S. pulled ahead at the end, finishing 0.46 seconds ahead of Poland.
Italy was third, 0.82 seconds behind the Americans, while Australia, with UW coxswain Stuart Sim (’16), finished fourth, 4.41 seconds off the U.S. time of 5:29.16.
“”It was tight,” Ojserkis told USRowing.com. “The line was coming and I just told them, ‘You have five strokes to go.’ There was nothing more I could tell them to motivate them. I knew what was on the line. I told them they had five strokes to finish the job.
“We didn’t know the result when we crossed the line. We knew we were in the top two. We didn’t know if we had won or if we got second.”
“I’m excited, exhausted, exhilarated and proud, the whole gambit,” U.S. coach (and former UW assistant) Luke McGee said. “Obviously, this was tough. But in the end, maybe it was necessary, having to make some of the changes we made. The guys bought in the whole year, and they went through a heck of a year. They got what they earned.”