Updated 9:56 a.m. LONDON — Rower Charlie Cole ’07 won Yale’s third medal of the 2012 Games while racing in the American men’s four boat that took bronze Saturday.
The British and Australian boats led from the start en route to gold and silver medals, respectively. It was the fourth consecutive Olympic championship in the event for Great Britain, which finished in 8 minutes 3.97 seconds, just over a second ahead of Australia. The Americans trailed the leaders by 2.11 seconds at the 500-meter mark, and were racing for the final podium spot against crews from the Netherlands, Greece and Germany. By the halfway point of the 2000-meter course, the Americans had established a clear lead over fourth place Greece, and went on to finish third in 6:07.20.
“We thought if we had our best race we would have a chance at a silver or gold, but we had a pretty darn good race and we came away with bronze, which isn’t a disappointment,” Cole said in a Saturday USRowing press release. “We are on the podium now. Which was goal number one.”
The crew, which includes Cole’s former Ivy League foes Glenn Ochal of Princeton and Henrik Rummel of Harvard, began training together with national team member Scott Gault as their fourth this April. Compared to the gold medalists from Great Britain, who returned three members of their 2008 Olympic championship boat, the Cole and his teammates made for a young crew.
The Americans were also relative unknowns who had never raced competitively together before, due to a decision to skip top international races this spring to train. But they demonstrated their strength upon arrival at the Eton Dorney Rowing Centre. The crew advanced directly to Thursday’s semifinal after recording a win in their heat on Monday.
In a Saturday email to the News, Cole wrote that the team was “distracted” during Thursday’s race because it was the first time they had raced against five other crews. This weakness was a disadvantage of sacrificing the spring races to train, he explained. Despite their inexperience, the Americans won their semifinal to advance to Saturday’s medal race.
In the medal race, the Americans planned to stay within striking distance of the favorites Great Britain and Australia and “attack in the last 500 meters,” Cole said. The Americans raced in lane five, between the top two crews, after the lanes were redrawn due to strong crosswinds.
“We executed pretty well and gave ourselves a chance at the end, but we didn’t have enough to get ahead,” Cole said.
At the 1000-meter mark, the Americans were 2.59 seconds behind the leading British and 1.98 seconds away from second-place Australia. Team USA recorded the fastest split in the third quarter of the race and and began edging back towards the top crews, closing the gap to Australia to 1.56 seconds.
In the last 500 meters, the United States slowed as the Brits surged to defeat the second-place Aussies. The Americans finished more than two seconds behind the Australian crew and defeated fourth-place Greece by over four seconds.
“We’ll have to think about and reflect on our performance and let the dust settle,” Cole said in the press release, explaining that he would have to watch video of the race to understand how their boat did not catch the top crews. “We have a lot to be confident about and hopefully a lot to look forward to in our rowing careers.”
The American men’s four took bronze just two days after American Taylor Ritzel ’10 and Canadian Ashley Brzozowicz ’04 took gold and silver, respectively, in the women’s eight rowing competition on Thursday. Cole is the 31st Yale rower to win an Olympic medal.