August 1st, 2012 | Sports

OLYMPICS | Elis favored for Thursday medals in crew

Australia's Tess Gerrand '10, second from left, and America's Taylor Ritzel '10, far right, after winning the NCAA Championship in 2008. The former teammates, who will race for Olympic gold in the women's eight Thursday, would go on to win NCAA titles in 2009 and 2010.
Australia's Tess Gerrand '10, second from left, and America's Taylor Ritzel '10, far right, after winning the NCAA Championship in 2008. The former teammates, who will race for Olympic gold in the women's eight Thursday, would go on to win NCAA titles in 2009 and 2010. Photo by Yale Athletics.

LONDON — Yale alumnae have a chance for a podium sweep at the London Olympics on Thursday when rowers Ashley Brzozowicz ’04, Tess Gerrand ’10 and Taylor Ritzel ’10 race against each other in the women’s eight final.

Along with the women, who would become the first Elis to win gold, silver and bronze in the same Olympic event in one year, rower Charlie Cole ’07 and sailor Stu McNay ’05 will compete in qualifying races on the sixth day of the Games.

Ritzel and the American boat are the favorites and defending champions in the women’s eight. They have won the world championships six years in a row and advanced to the final in London after finishing their qualifying heat more than six seconds ahead of their nearest rivals.

But the overall best time in qualifying went to Brzozowicz and the Canadian boat, which has been gaining on the United States in international competition since finishing fourth in Beijing, three seconds away from gold. The crew finished just three hundredths of a second behind the Americans at the World Rowing Cup II in Lucerne this May en route to a silver medal.

While the American and Canadian crews are established powerhouses and won their respective heats, Gerrand and the Australian women’s eight needed a top-four finish in Tuesday’s repechage to advance to the final. The Aussies finished third, defeating Great Britain and Germany to qualify.

They will be underdogs in the finals, but that will not be an unfamiliar position for the team. A medal for the self-titled “motley crew” of women, which Australia’s Herald Sun newspaper called a “rag-tag bunch of rejects, misfits and discards” in an article Tuesday, would be a triumph against the odds.

Rowing Australia cancelled the women’s eight program after a sixth place finish in the 2008 Olympics and recommissioned the boat only five weeks before a May Olympic qualification race in Lucerne, Switzerland, according to Gerrand. The crew won that race, qualifying for a spot in London and setting the stage for a chance at a medal Thursday.

Crews from Great Britain, the Netherlands and Romania will fill out the final three spots in the women’s eight Olympic medal race, scheduled for 7:30 a.m. EST.

Before the women hit the water, Charlie Cole ’07 of Team USA will compete in the men’s heavyweight four semifinals at 5:10 a.m. Cole’s boat entered the Games as relative unknowns after skipping major international races this year to train. The Americans demonstrated their medal potential on Monday with a win in the qualification heat that advanced the boat directly to the semifinals.

The crew will compete against boats from Canada, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands and Romania on Thursday.

McNay will take the water more than a hundred miles from the rowers as his sailing competition begins on Thursday. Competing for the United States in the men’s 470 class, McNay and his crew Graham Biehl will compete in their first two of ten scheduled races before the final medal race on Aug 9.

On the waters off Dorset in southern England, McNay and Biehl will be looking to improve upon their 13th place finish at the 2008 Games in Beijing. The two have been sailing together since 2005 and are ranked fifth in the world, according to the International Sailing Federation. They are scheduled to race at 7:00am and 8:30am.

The Ivy League is well represented in the women’s eight Olympic final. The Bulldog trio will be joined by three rowers from Princeton, two from Harvard and one from Penn, according to the Ivy League.

Follow staff reporter Jacqueline Sahlberg on the ground in London on Twitter @yaleatolympics for results.