Courtesy of Dan Williamson

There is one last hurdle between Yale oarsman Dan Williamson ’23 and a spot on New Zealand’s 2020 Tokyo Olympic Team: the Olympic Final Qualification Regatta.

On Tuesday, Rowing New Zealand announced that Williamson has earned a spot on their elite team as a part of the men’s eight. In order to qualify the New Zealand men’s eight for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, the crew needs to place in the top two of their event. Williamson is set to race with his crew in the Final Qualification Regatta held in Lucerne, Switzerland, from May 15 to May 17. The men’s eight will depart New Zealand May 7 and return May 20.

Nine boats from New Zealand have already qualified for the games through the 2019 World Rowing Championships: women’s single, women’s double, lightweight women’s double, women’s pair, women’s quad, women’s eight, men’s single, men’s double and men’s pair.

At the 2019 World Rowing Championships, a top-five finish was necessary to qualify the men’s eight for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Crews from Germany, the Netherlands, Great Britain, Australia and the United States made the cut, with New Zealand coming sixth place in the final — just half a second behind the American eight.

Of the eight rowers and one coxswain who raced in New Zealand’s 2019 boat, five kept their seats with the crew and two are reserve athletes for the elite team this year.

But if Williamson’s crew makes the top two in Lucerne, he will be guaranteed a spot on the Olympic team. According to Rowing New Zealand, “Boats securing qualification through Final Olympic Qualification regattas may not have crew changes between securing qualification and the Olympic Games.”

Although Williamson now trains with professional rowers with sights set on the Olympics, his athletic career was not always so focused.

“I’ve been rowing for seven years, I started at high school. I guess I wasn’t very athletic before that,” Williamson told the News. “Rowing just seemed to fit well with where I was at.”

Williamson recalled trying soccer, rugby and more sports throughout his childhood. But when he began rowing, he excelled quickly. In 2018, Williamson finished third in the under-23 men’s coxless four with a time of 5:52.81. At Yale, he was a part of the varsity crew during his first and second years, helping the 1V to a No. 1 finish at the 2019 IRA National Championship.

According to Yale heavyweight head coach Steve Gladstone, Yale is “not alone” in having athletes represent their countries. Other top rowing universities, such as Harvard, also benefit from their students’ Olympic pursuits.

“The level of performance at the universities has just escalated significantly,” Gladstone said.

Following the results of the Qualification Regatta, the official New Zealand Olympic Rowing Team will be announced on June 11.

Rehan Melwani | rehan.melwani@yale.edu