Four former Yale women's rowers – Ashley Brzozowicz '04 (Canada, eight), Tess Gerrand '10 (Australia, eight), Jamie Redman '08 (USA, spare) and Taylor Ritzel '10 (USA, eight) – will be at the 2012 Olympics in London. In the days leading up to the Games, yalebulldogs.com will profile each of the four.
It didn't take Ashley Brzozowicz '04 long to make an impression on Yale women's crew coach Will Porter. During the time Porter was recruiting her, Brzozowicz shaved nearly 30 seconds off her 2K.
"I remember asking her how she got so much faster on the erg in such a short time," Porter says. "She replied `I decided I wanted to go faster.' That pretty much sums her up. Ashley is one of the most determined athletes I have ever coached. Once she decides she is going to do something, she will not stop until she gets it."
Brzozowicz's goal at the 2012 Olympics is clear – to win a medal. In 2008, she was part of the Canadian eight that finished fourth in the final. The chance to capture a medal is what drove her to continue to train and make a second Olympic appearance.
"Finishing fourth at the Beijing Games was an accomplishment, but I truly felt that as an athlete I had more to learn and speed to gain," Brzozowicz said. "I told myself that I would train to make the 2010 team traveling to New Zealand [for the World Rowing Championships] and re-evaluate after that experience. With a second-place finish and less than two years to go to London, I felt I was on track."
Regardless of the outcome this time around, Brzozowicz has enjoyed an outstanding career with Canadian Rowing. The eight has finished second in each of the last two World Rowing Championships, and her time with the national team dates back to 2006.
"Right now, it is clear that her eyes are set on winning a gold medal," Porter says.
Of course to accomplish that, Brzozowicz will have to beat a United States eight that features fellow Yale grad Taylor Ritzel '10 and an Australian eight with alum Tess Gerrand '10 in it. It's the first time in Yale's Olympic history that three former women's rowers will be competing against each other.
"I have met or seen them both briefly at international events, but we have not gotten the opportunity to spend much time together," Brzozowicz says. "I think it's a testament to the hard work and dedication that rowing at Yale requires, and it speaks to the type of athletes that are recruited to Yale. Personally I came to Yale as a bit of an unknown and really came into my own while training under Will [Porter]. I certainly would not be heading to my second Games without having worked with him."
Brzozowicz played a key role in the resurgence of the Yale women's crew program. She sat in the No. 6 seat in the Bulldogs' varsity eight that finished second at the 2004 NCAA Championships. The Bulldogs were second as a team that year, which remains the best finish in school history.
"The dedication and team work that I learned at Yale will always be a part of my life," she says. "Yale Crew taught me what high performance sport was all about and got me to a level of fitness and skill that made me competitive with other national team athletes."
Brzozowicz, who never really thought about competing in the Olympics during her time at Yale, started rowing in high school.
"I did it to avoid another treacherous season on the track team," she says. "It was love at first stroke for me. Rowing was just a natural fit and was the first sport in which I actually had potential to excel."
With two Olympics soon to be under her belt, Brzozowicz knows her time with the national team could be winding down.
"That is a question for me to tackle after these Games are done," she says. "For now, I am focused on the task at hand."
Determined right to the last stroke.
Brzozowicz is the fourth from the right. Photos courtesy Rowing Canada Aviron
Story by Tim Bennett, Yale Sports Publicity