Last Chance to Gain a Spot in Rio for Four U.S. Crews

by Ed Moran, | May 11, 2016
PRINCETON, N.J. - With 10 events already scheduled for the United States Olympic team, the focus for the coming few weeks will be on the boat classes not yet qualified for the Rio Games.
fqrPRINCETON, N.J. - With 10 of 14 events already scheduled for the United States Olympic team, the focus for the coming few weeks will be on the boat classes not yet qualified for the Rio Games.

Four men’s crews that did not finish high enough at the 2015 World Rowing Championships will have their second – and last – shot at filling the remaining available slots. The men’s eight, single, double and quad will go to the line at the Final Olympic Qualification Regatta May 22-24 in Lucerne, Switzerland.

Athletes in three of those crews – the men’s single, double and quad – earned the right to compete for those open slots at the 2016 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Team Trials – Rowing last month in Sarasota, Fla. The men’s eight crew that will represent the U.S. was announced May 6.

That crew is comprised of coxswain Sam Ojserkis (Linwood, N.J.), Austin Hack (Old Lyme, Conn.), Rob Munn (Redmond, Wash.), Mike DiSanto (Boston, Mass.), Steve Kasprzyk (Cinnaminson, N.J.), Glenn Ochal (Philadelphia, Pa.), Alex Karwoski (Hollis, N.H.), Hans Struzyna (Kirkland, Wash.) and Sam Dommer (Folsom, Calif.). A top-three finish in Lucerne is needed to qualify the men's single. The other three boat classes need a top-two finish.
This is not the first time the U.S. men's eight has gone through the Lucerne qualification regatta. In 2012, the U.S. was successful and finished just inches out of the medals at the Olympic Games in London.

USRowing High Performance Director Curtis Jordan said all four crews are ready.

"Our crews are well prepared,” he said. “They are handling the emotional tension as well as the physical preparation that is involved in this regatta. I am looking forward to strong performances from all of our athletes.”

Men’s Eight

m8Of the men’s eight crew that will race in Lucerne, three are returning to the eight from last summer, including Hack, Karwoski and Dommer. The new lineup has a deeper veteran presence. Ochal won bronze in the four in London and Kasprzyk was in the eight.

A top-two finish is needed to gain a place in Rio and there are four other crews entered, including Australia, Italy, Poland and Spain. The U.S. lost to Poland in its heat at worlds, but finished ahead of them in the B final. Poland is returning the same crew to the qualifier. In April, Poland won silver at the 2016 World Rowing Cup I and finished fifth at the European Championships last week in Brandenburg, Germany.

Australia finished ninth at the 2015 World Championships and will return four from that crew. Spain finished 11th at worlds and seventh at this month’s European Championships. They have five new athletes in the crew. Italy finished sixth at the 2015 World Rowing Championships and took silver at the 2016 World Rowing Cup I. They return six from last year.

“We know what we have to do,” Ojserkis said when the lineup was announced. “We are trying to get faster every day with the ultimate goal of qualifying this boat for the Olympic Games.”

Men’s Single Sculls

m1xTwo-time Olympian Ken Jurkowski (New Fairfield, Conn.) needs a top-three finish to earn a spot on the Olympic schedule. Jurkowski represented the U.S. at last summer’s world championships and finished 21st. He will face a field of 16 competitors.

Among those entered are three who have been in international competition this spring. Hannes Obreno from Belarus finished third at World Cup I and fourth at the European Championships. He finished 12th last year at worlds.

Finland’s Robert Vin was fourth at World Cup I. Denmark’s Sverri Nielsen was sixth at the European Championship. Also scheduled to compete is three-time Olympian Cedric Berrest of France.

After winning his event at trials, Jurkowski said he was looking forward to the challenge.

“Everybody talks about (the Lucerne regatta) in fear with this term, ‘regatta of death.’ I think that is silly. I look at it as an opportunity to make the team. I prefer to look at it as the regatta of opportunity.”

Men’s Double Sculls

m2xCraftsbury Sculling Center’s Willy Cowles (Farmington, Conn.) and Stephen Whelpley (Mequon, Wis.) won their trials event and are now in Europe preparing for Lucerne.

They race in a field of 12 crews. Among them will be three-time Olympian Olaf Tufte, who will be stroking Norway’s entry with Kjetil Borch. Tufte and Borch finished fifth at the European Championships. Also entered are Poland’s Dawid Grabowski and Dominik Czaja, who won silver at World Cup I.

“We are pumped to simply string the best strokes we can against equally excited competition,” said Whelpley. “We know it is going to be a regatta in which the envelope will constantly be pushed, so we just aim to put our hands on that envelope and add to that push.”

Men’s Quadruple Sculls

m4xCraftsbury’s Ben Davison (Inverness, Fla.), Ben Dann (Pound Ridge, N.Y.), John Graves (Cincinnati, Ohio) and 2012 Olympian Peter Graves (Cincinnati, Ohio) won trials and now face a tough field of six international crews. Among those entered are four crews that raced in the final at World Cup I including first-place Russia, second-place Canada, fifth-place Italy and sixth-place Norway.

“We have a pretty good understanding of who is out there and who we are going up against,” said John Graves. “They are all familiar faces and people we know to be really fast. We know it’s going to be really tough, really close and really tight racing.

“We need to have our speed together and to show up to the race with a full deck of cards. If we do that, we will be happy with the outcome, no matter what.”

Racing starts Sunday, May 22 with heats. Click here for World Rowing event page.

For more information about important USRowing dates, the 2016 Olympic Games selection process and Olympic hopeful athlete bios, click here.

About USRowing

USRowing is a nonprofit organization recognized by the United States Olympic Committee as the governing body for the sport of rowing in the United States. USRowing has 85,000 individual members and 1,300 member organizations, offering rowing programs for all. USRowing receives generous support from the National Rowing Foundation and its corporate sponsors and partners.

For more information, contact: USRowing Communications, (609) 751-0710,

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