Former PU Rowers Earn Medals at Tokyo Olympics, Tiger Water Polo Great Johnson on Track for Gold
MAKING THEIR MARK: Former Princeton University men’s heavyweight rowing star Fred Vystavel ’16, coach Jens Vilhelmsen, and Joachim Sutton have plenty to smile about as Vystavel and Sutton earned bronze for the Denmark men’s pair last Wednesday (Eastern Time) at the Tokyo Olympics. The Danish duo clocked a time of 6:19.88 over the 2,000-meter course at the Sea Forest Waterway in taking third, with Croatia earning gold in 6:15.29 and Romania getting the silver at 6:16.58. (Photo by Copenhagenloadstar Photography, provided courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)
By Bill Alden
Fred Vystavel became the first Princeton University athlete to earn a medal at the Tokyo Olympics as he combined with Joachim Sutton to earn bronze last Wednesday (Eastern Time) in the men’s pair for Denmark.
Vystavel ’16 and Sutton clocked a time of 6:19.88 over the 2,000-meter course at the Sea Forest Waterway in taking third with Croatia earning gold in 6:15.29 and Romania getting the silver at 6:16.58.
“Watching Fred on the awards dock receiving his bronze medal brought me to tears,” said Princeton men’s heavyweight crew head coach Greg Hughes, reflecting on Vystavel’s achievement.
“It has been such a long, hard stretch of training over these last four years for him to arrive at this point. Through it all, he stayed true to his goals and never faltered. And, in typical Fred fashion, he’s done it with such an incredible attitude and grace. He’s been an inspiration to all of us and I am so proud to see him win that medal.”
Vystavel’s bronze gave Princeton athletes 60 medals at the Olympics with Ashleigh Johnson ’17 being the last Tiger to earn a medal when she helped the U.S women’s water polo team take gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
A day later, Princeton added a 61st medal to its storied Olympic history as former Tiger men’s heavyweight rowing star Tom George ’18 collected a bronze medal for Great Britain in the men’s 8.
George and Great Britain clocked a time of 5:25.73 in taking third with New Zealand posting a winning time of 5:24.64 in earning gold with Germany coming in second at 5:25.60.
The final featured two other former Princeton crew stars as Nick Mead ’17 rowed for the U.S. boat which placed fourth and Tim Masters ’15 competed for sixth-place finisher Australia.
“I am so proud of Tom and pumped to see him win that bronze,” said Hughes, reacting to George’s accomplishment.
“He has taken on the challenges of the last four years with impressive focus and commitment and it has been inspiring to watch. I know how hard he’s worked to earn this medal and it is so awesome to see him win it.”
Princeton women’s rowing legend Gevvie Stone ’07 fell just short of earning a medal as she and Kristi Wagner finished fifth in the double sculls final last Tuesday. The U.S. pair came in at 6:52.98 as Romania cruised to gold in an Olympic record of 6:41.03 with New Zealand taking second in 6:44.82 and the Netherlands securing the bronze with a time of 6:45.73.
Stone, who earned a silver medal in single sculls at the 2016 Rio Olympics, will now resume her medical career as a resident in emergency medicine at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Mass.
Recently graduated Tiger women’s open crew standout Hannah Scott ’21 and the Great Britain quadruple sculls team cruised to victory in the B Final, winning by 3.86 seconds to finish seventh overall. Great Britain clocked a winning time of 6:25.14 with New Zealand taking second in 6:29.00 and France coming in third at 6:29.70.
Another Princeton open rowing standout Claire Collins ’19 and the United States four had their best time of the Olympics, posting a 6:33.65 to win the B Final and also finish seventh overall. That time was almost 20 seconds better than their repechage mark and 10 seconds faster than their heat run. Denmark took second in 6:34.72 and Romania placed third in 6:35.12.
Legendary Princeton women’s water polo goalie Johnson and the United States national team stayed on track for another gold medal as they defeated the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) 18-5 last Friday to complete pool play.
Johnson, who helped the U.S. win gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics, was sparkling in goal as she recorded 16 stops in the victory.
The U.S., which went 3-1 in pool play, went on to defeat Canada 16-5 in the quarterfinals on Tuesday morning as Johnson made 14 saves in the victory. The American squad, which also won gold at the 2012 London Olympics, will have a rematch with the ROC in the semis on August 5 with the victor advancing to the gold medal game on August 7.
Johnson’s classmate, former Princeton women’s track throwing star Julia Ratcliffe ’17, was in the mix for a
medal herself as she competed for New Zealand in the women’s hammer throw on Tuesday. She ended up finishing ninth with a best throw of 72.69 meters. Anita Wlodarczyk of Poland won the gold with a heave of 78.48 with Wang Zheng of China coming in second at 77.03 and Malwina Kopron of Poland placing third in 75.49.
Ratcliffe, a NCAA national champion and Commonwealth Games winner, made the finals with a heave of 73.20 meters which placed her sixth in the opening round on July 31.
Another Tiger woman’s track great, Lizzie Bird ’17, who is representing Great Britain, is going for a medal on August 4, having made the final of the women’s 3,000-meter steeplechase, advancing on time in the third heat last Saturday
Bird clocked a time of 9:24.34 in an extremely close heat where she finished fifth. Hyvin Kiyeng Jepkemoi of Kenya placed first in the race in a time of 9:23.17 as the race went down to the wire. The final is slated for August 4.
Current Princeton men’s track standout Ed Trippas ’22 competed for Australia in the men’s 3,000-meter steeplechase and finished 11th in the second heat on July 29 with a time of 8:29.90.
Trippas, who has earned Honorable Mention All-America honors in the steeplechase in 2019 and competed in the event at the NCAA East Regional in both 2019 and 2018, will be back on campus this fall where he will be serving as a captain of the men’s cross country team.
Another current member of the Tiger track squad, rising sophomore Sondre Guttormsen, competed on Friday night in the pole vault representing Norway. Guttormsen recorded a best mark of 5.50 meters to finish 11th in Group A as he didn’t qualify for the final.
A former Princeton standout, Nathan Crumpton ’08, was on the track Friday night, racing in the 100 meters for American Samoa. He clocked a time of 11.27 to take ninth in his heat.
On the fencing strip at the Makuhari Messe, rising Tiger junior Mohamed Hamza ended the competition for Princeton’s four Olympic fencers as he competed for the Egyptian men’s foil team in its final bout on Sunday.
In the team event, Hamza and Egypt finished eighth. In a quarterfinal bout against second-seeded and eventual gold medalist France, the seventh-seeded Egyptians fell 45-34, sending Egypt to a classification bout against Italy that the Italians won 45-30. In the seventh-place bout, Egypt met fifth-seeded Hong Kong, China, falling 45-21. Hamza was competing in his second Olympics after taking part in the team competition in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, where Egypt finished seventh.
Previously, Hamza had made the quarterfinals of the individual men’s foil tournament, seeded 22nd of the 36 fencers in the draw and knocking off 11th-seeded Marcus Mepstead of Great Britain in the round of 32, 15-13, before getting the last eight touches to rally past sixth-seeded Andrea Cassara of Italy 15-13 in the round of 16. Alexander Choupenitch, the 19th seed from the Czech Republic, ended Hamza’s run in the quarters, 15-9. Choupenitch went on to lose in the semifinal to eventual gold medalist Ka Long Cheung of Hong Kong, China, 15-10, before winning the bronze medal over Japan’s Takahiro Shikine, 15-8.
Former Tiger women’s fencing stars Katharine Holmes ’17 and Anna Van Brummen ’17 helped the fifth-seeded U.S. women’s épée team finish fifth, bouncing back from a 38-33 quarterfinal loss to fourth-seeded South Korea with a 42-31 win over eighth-seeded Hong Kong, China in a classification bout and a 33-26 win over second-seeded Poland in the fifth-place bout. Holmes competed in all three bouts and Van Brummen, a replacement athlete, competed in the fifth-place bout.
Holmes also competed in the individual event, holding the 18th seed and falling to 15th-seeded Sera Song of South Korea 15-12 in the round of 32. Holmes was also a Rio 2016 Olympian, competing in the round of 32 individually last time around while helping the U.S. finish fifth as a team.
Eliza Stone ’13 and the sixth-seeded U.S. women’s saber team finished sixth, falling to third-seeded France, 45-30, in the quarterfinals before a 45-35 win over seventh-seeded China in a classification bout and a 45-43 loss to eighth-seeded Japan in the fifth-place bout. In the individual competition, Stone fell 15-9 to Anna Bashta of Azerbaijan in the round of 32.