Courtesy of Ella von der Schulenburg

Add Ella von der Schulenburg ’20 to the long list of Bulldogs showcasing their athletic abilities at the highest level. 

The 2019-20 Yale women’s crew captain will be representing Switzerland’s senior national team this coming weekend at the 2020 European Rowing Championships in Poznań, Poland. She will be seated second in the Swiss boat for the women’s quadruple sculls event.

“I’m very excited,” von der Schulenburg said via FaceTime from the Swiss Training Center prior to departure for Poland. “It’s the best thing ever to go to a competition with your teammates … and show others how strong you are together and how well you can work together.”

Another Yale rowing alum, former men’s heavyweight captain Paul Jacquot ’18, will also be representing Switzerland this weekend as part of the men’s four.

While this will mark von der Schulenburg’s first time rowing with the Swiss senior team, it is not her maiden voyage in an international competition. The 2018 Ivy League team points champion has experience with the national team at the Junior and U23 levels dating back to 2015.

This weekend, however, presents a whole new challenge as she moves from the U23s to the senior team. 

“Nobody is ready for how fast they are at seniors,” von der Schulenburg said.

Women’s crew head coach Will Porter stated that, in a long list of rowers containing numerous Olympians, von der Schulenburg “was right there with some of the best athletes at Yale I have coached.”

Von der Schulenburg rows with her Swiss teammates. (Photo: Courtesy of Ella von der Schulenburg)

Assistant coach Jamie Snider added that she “has a chance to make the Olympics” as well.

This weekend’s regatta will not be von der Schulenburg’s first time competing in Poznań, as she also rowed there during the 2018 World Rowing U23 Championships. The 2019 All-American honorable mention is looking to bounce back from what she considers to be one of her most disappointing race weekends in which she did not live up to her own standards. 

“[The U23 Worlds in Poznań] was probably one of my worst racing experiences of my life just in terms of my performance, so I’m kind of nervous going back to the place,” von der Schulenburg said. “I learned from that experience … I think ultimately that did help me become a faster athlete.”

Two years later, she will return to western Poland with a chance to show how she has grown.

Von der Schulenburg attributes a lot of that growth to her time at Yale. While she learned crucial lessons such as leadership skills, communication and self-accountability, her biggest takeaway came very early on in her Bulldog career.

“I definitely re-fell in love with the sport again when I got to Yale,” she said. “It was so fun and everyone was just there because they really wanted to be there.”

Her presence on the team was certainly appreciated, as Porter highlighted von der Schulenburg’s drive and her no-nonsense approach to leadership. He went on to say that prior to the coronavirus and the abrupt end to the 2020 season, the team under her leadership was poised for tremendous success. 

“You see teams ebb and flow, rise and fall off,” Porter explained. “And we were certainly on a rise.”

Former men’s heavyweight captain Paul Jacquot ’18, second from right during practice on Wednesday, will also represent Switzerland this weekend as part of the men’s four.(Photo: Courtesy of Swiss Rowing)

Von der Schulenburg now finds herself on another young, up-and-coming team in the Swiss quad — only one of the four oarswomen has any previous senior team experience. The team has taken on a grueling practice schedule in which they typically practice three times a day, as opposed to the once- or twice-a-day workouts that von der Schulenburg was accustomed to in college. They have found a way to break up the monotony of practice by traveling to France earlier this summer to compete in a few training races, which von der Schulenburg said were both fun and helpful.

Von der Schulenburg appreciates being at the helm of her national team’s endeavor onto the international stage. The Swiss, she explained, have not traditionally performed well in women’s rowing but have put more emphasis on the sport in recent years.

“It’s kinda cool to be able to be at the start of this project for the Swiss team,” she said.

Von der Schulenberg seeks to row this project all the way to the upcoming Olympics: Tokyo 2021 and Paris 2024.

But first, she will look to race past the competition in Poznań.

The 2020 European Rowing Championships run from Friday, Oct. 9, to Sunday, Oct. 11.

James Richardson | james.richardson@yale.edu