Two alumni of the Yale women’s crew team may be destined for the 2012 Olympics.
In early November, Jamie Redman ’08 and Taylor Ritzel ’10 were part of a U.S. women’s eight team that rowed its way to a fifth world championship at Lake Karapiro, New Zealand, edging out Canada by 3.7 seconds. According to women’s crew head coach William Porter, the win means that Redman and Ritzel are very likely to represent the U.S. at the summer games in London.
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The two women have had whirlwind careers in rowing. Redman was a member of the U.S. Under 23 National Rowing Team in 2007 and 2008 and has been on the senior national team since 2009. Ritzel won three NCAA championships while at Yale, and, since graduating, she has been on the U.S. Under 23 National Rowing Team and the U.S. women’s eight, both of which won gold medals this year.
Porter, who coached both Redman and Ritzel, said that he was glad he had the opportunity to coach the two women.
“The coolest thing about both of them is that they’re really down-to-earth, grounded, exceptional athletes,” he said.
The two rowers played very different sports before coming to Yale and had little experience rowing. Redman was a cross country runner and skier, while Ritzel was a swimmer, and both had only rowed for a short time during their senior year in high school. However, both eventually found their passion in crew at Yale, and Porter added that their lack of experience paled in comparison to their natural predisposition toward being ideal rowers.
“They’re both tall and strong with a very good physiology,” he said.
Porter said that at the international level, physiology can play a big role in a team’s success. He also attributed the recurring victories of the U.S. women’s eight to the manner in which female rowers are developed in the U.S., where women’s crew is a prominent NCAA sport. Since the passing of Title IX, women’s crew has exploded in U.S. universities. Porter identified this trend as a huge factor in the U.S. team’s winning streak.
Even though the U.S. team had won the women’s eight world championship four consecutive years prior to 2010, Redman said that the team did not take their win for granted.
“Six of us were new to the eight this year. We had no idea how fast the other crews could go,” she said in an e-mail. “We could only trust our fitness and our training.”
The training paid off as the team won their heat and then proceeded to the grand final, where they raced against Canada, Romania, the Netherlands, Great Britain and China.
Redman said that her training at Yale prepared her for competition “at the elite level,” but added that college crew is very different because the racing season lasts much longer in college. She said that at the national level, the team trains solely for the World Championships.
“I miss the excitement of the college racing season — suiting up every weekend, perfecting your race plan, duking it out with other teams — it was so much fun,” she said.
Nevertheless, Redman said that some things from her time at Yale are also present at the national level, which is why her experience with Yale women’s crew became so helpful for her future crew endeavors.
“The Eli squad was a hardworking, competitive group, and the inter-squad competition directly fueled our team speed,” Redman said. “The same goes for the national team.”
Porter said that Redman and Ritzel will continue to row and are trying to make the U.S. team for the 2012 Olympics in London. He added that Tess Gerrane ’10, who is trying to make the Australian team, and Ashley Brzozowicz ’04, who was a member of the Canadian team at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, could also be at the 2012 Olympics.