July 27, 2016

Moving to the U.S. Men’s 8 After Taking Bronze in the 4, Ochal Primed for Another Medal Run at Rio Games


MEDAL HAUL: Glenn Ochal shows his focus in a recent race for U.S. men’s eight. Ochal, a 2008 Princeton University grad, will be competing for the U.S. men’s eight at the Rio Olympics. It is Ochal’s second trip to the Olympics. He earned bronze for the men’s four at the 2012 London Summer Games. (Photo provided courtesy of USRowing)

Glenn Ochal has proven his versatility and skill during his time with the U.S. rowing program.

In 2012, the former Princeton University standout helped the U.S. four win bronze at the London Summer Games. In the intervening years, he has competed in the pair and the eight as well as the four.

“I have jumped around in a couple of different boats,” said the 6’4, 205-pound Ochal, 30, a 2008 Princeton graduate who won gold with the Tiger heavyweights at the 2006 Eastern Sprints.

“They are all challenging in their own respects. I enjoy rowing with them all and racing them all. It is fun to go out and race whenever you can.”

Next month, Ochal will be racing for the U.S. in the men’s eight at the Rio Summer Games and is confident he will have fun with that crew.

“I think the eight is a little different of a boat,” said Ochal. “There is twice as many people and the cox. It is a little more of a drag race.”

After taking bronze in London, Ochal was primed to go for another trip to the Olympics.

“It was a great experience,” said Ochal, reflecting on the 2012 Summer Games. “You put a lot of time into it and it seems like you get a lot back.”

While crew is a sport that emphasizes teamwork with a boat striving to be in synch, knowing that it is only as good as its weakest link, Ochal’s work ethic has stood out, evidenced by getting named as USRowing’s Male Athlete of the Year in 2012.

“It is pretty unique, it is voted on by your peers,” said Ochal. “I guess that is the most important part, the people on the team respect who I am as an athlete and as a hard worker.”

The U.S. eight has to work hard to make the Rio Summer Games as it went into the 2016 Final Olympic Qualification Regatta in Lucerne, Switzerland this May as one of five boats vying for the final two spots.

The U.S. punched its ticket with a late surge to narrowly win the race.

“It was probably the most pressure I have been under in the sport of rowing,”  said Ochal.

“Say you have a job and you don’t get paid monthly but you get paid once very four years and you only get paid if you do an excellent job. Even a really good job may not be good enough. Since we did an excellent job to qualify, we are getting rewarded with a big pay day. We get to go to the Olympics. The crews that raced against us did as much work as we did training, but they don’t get that reward because it is the nature of the process. It was a lot of pressure.”

In Ochal’s view, surviving that pressure-cooker was a matter of rising to the occasion.

“It was really close, it was three boats within a second,” recalled Ochal. “It was tight racing and we had a good race. We weren’t in the lead until 20 meters to go. All the boats were right with us. All the guys in the boat raised themselves to the challenge. It was let’s get through; this is our lives.”

After qualifying for the Olympics, the boat took bronze at the 2016 World Rowing Cup II.

“It was definitely a confidence builder, there are only seven boats in the 8s at the Olympics so you only have  to beat a couple of crews to be near the top of the field,” said Ochal.

“We have the speed. Based off of previous results, we are in the mix. We showed decent amounts of speed getting third at the world cup regatta. The field is really tight and we just need to go out there and have a good race.”

Rowing out of Princeton boathouse on Lake Carnegie, the crew was training 13 times a week in its final build-up to Rio.

“I think the boat is in a good spot, there is still a month to go so we don’t have a ton of prep work to do,” said Ochal, noting that the crew rows every morning and then alternates between rowing, ergometer sessions, or weight training in the afternoon.

In Ochal’s view, the boat can end up in a good spot at the Rio competition, which runs from August 6-13 on the Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon.

“It is sticking to our technique, executing the race plan and putting ourselves into the race,” said Ochal. “Starting really well is important; we need to be pushing our physical limits there.”

Drawing on his experience in London, Ochal knows it is important to not get distracted by the hype and pressure that comes with the Olympics.

“I know what it will be like, that doesn’t mean I won’t be as nervous,” said Ochal.

“I have to make sure I do everything I need to do and treat it like it is another race. Everybody has got to be on the same page because if some people start going off on their own, that can hurt us. The sum is greater than the parts.”