As Owen Symington ’14 began to make a name for himself as a rower during high school, coaches in his native Australia approached him with offers to row for their teams. But after Harvard contacted the Melbourne resident in efforts to recruit him, Symington began closely considering coming to the United States to train at a school with worldwide name recognition.
The combination of what international rowers can offer Yale and what Yale can offer the rowers facilitates an arrangement that makes much sense to many potential international rowers.
“It’s a pretty easy marriage,” said captain Jon Morgan ’13, who is from Johannesburg, South Africa.
It is a partnership that has come to comprise a large part of the men’s heavyweight crew team. According to the Yale Athletics website, 12 of the 36 athletes on the squad hail from abroad, a group that represents six countries. Australia leads the pack, as four Elis call Melbourne or Brisbane home, while Germany, the United Kingdom and New Zealand each have two rowers on the team, and France and South Africa boast one rower apiece.
The international presence has been boosted by a number of factors. Symington noted that the Yale program has taken a more active role in reaching out to international recruits over the past few years. Other rowers agree.
“For most guys, rather than us coming here, we have two assistant coaches, who will basically scout guys out,” said Oliver Fletcher ’14, who is originally from the United Kingdom.
Rowers from abroad have also found an increased interest in contacting American coaches as the number of international students rowing in the United States has increased over the past few years. Other more atypical recruiting tracks exist as well: Morgan’s older brother Pieter Morgan ’09 rowed for the team before his younger brother, easing the transition for Jon Morgan, who won the South Africa Junior National Championships in 2006.
Yet the vast international presence does not seem to disrupt the squad’s chemistry. While Morgan acknowledged that the internationals from the same country tend to be close, the Elis in general remain a tight-knit group.
“The team does a very good job of being a welcoming place,” Morgan said.
Furthermore, several of the athletes from abroad race competitively for their countries during the summer. Symington, for example, rowed for Australia’s U-23 last summer. The junior added that international coaches have become more receptive to their athletes competing for schools in the U.S. as more rowers have made the trip to the States.
“The Australian team is recognizing that a lot of the kids are coming across, and so then they’re actually supporting us over here,” Symington said. “Rowing at Yale makes us really ready for the international racing at an extremely high level.”
The influx of foreign students has helped raise the level of competition in the United States such that the intra- and inter-squad competition prepares the rowers for international competition.
The men’s heavyweight crew team will next compete this Saturday on its home course against Dartmouth.