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.
After a heartbreaking second-place finish in the women's pair at the Olympic Trials in June, Jamie Redman '10 was convinced her dream of attending the 2012 London Olympics was over. Only the winners earned a spot on the U.S. Olympic roster and Redman and her partner Amanda Polk came up three seconds short.
"It took all my courage to show up at the boathouse the next day. I was sure I'd be sent home," Redman said.
Instead of being told to pack her bags, though, Redman received some much better news. She was asked to serve as the spare for the U.S. team.
"When I learned that I wasn't being cut, that instead I would still go to London as the reserve, a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders," she said. "It's a bit bittersweet. On one hand, I'm ecstatic that I have this amazing opportunity. On the other hand, I've had to deal with the regrets of being so close to making the boat."
Still, Redman will savor her Olympic experience, whether she rows or not.
"When I was a kid in Washington State, our Nordic ski club would throw a Winter Olympics Day at the end of every ski season," she remembers. "All the little skiers would represent a different `country,' we would ski in an `Opening Ceremonies' and would spend the day competing in various fun ski events. Twenty years later, I finally have the chance to travel with Team USA to the real Olympics. It's a dream come true."
Redman, who helped the Yale varsity eight to a pair of NCAA championships, certainly has credentials with U.S. Rowing that are worthy of an Olympic spot. This spring, she won a gold medal and set a world record in the eight at the Samsung World Rowing Cup. She also won gold at the 2011 World Rowing Cup and at the 2010 World Rowing Championships. She has been with the U.S. program since she graduated Yale in 2008.
Although she may not get the opportunity to row, she will still have a rigorous schedule at the Games.
"As a spare, I have to be ready to jump in any boat, at anytime," she says. "The spare has the exact same workout plan as the competing boats – we'll be training on the Olympic course and living in the Village with the rest of the athletes. On race day, we'll suit up, warm up, go to the boating meeting, and be on standby until the minute the boat arrives at the starting line. We're just like the sixth man in a basketball lineup. We're on the sidelines for now, but if our team needs us, we're ready to row."
Redman's personality is well-suited for her role.
"Jamie is one of the most unassuming and friendly athletes that I have coached," said Yale head coach Will Porter. "She is super strong and very enthusiastic. She is deceivingly athletic and loves to race."
Ironically, Redman, who has run the New York City Marathon, didn't really start rowing until she decided to come to Yale.
"In high school, I was the six-foot tall cross country runner, awkwardly trying to blend in with all the five-foot pixies on the track," she says. "When I walked into Yale's boathouse on my visit and met 30 women who were all my size or taller, I was hooked."
At Yale, Redman was a 2007 CRCA All-America selection and twice earned All-New England honors. She helped the Bulldogs varsity eight to an undefeated season, including the NCAA title, in 2007 and then another national championship as a senior. In addition, she was a three time CRCA Scholar Athlete and earned an NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship.
Shortly after graduating, Redman headed to the U.S. Rowing training center in Princeton and immediately won a gold medal with the women's eight at the 2008 World Rowing Under 23 Championships.
"The timing was quite serendipitous," she said. "I graduated in 2008 so I was too young to have been part of the Beijing Olympic squad. However, I arrived right as all the Beijing athletes were enjoying their post-Games vacation. Right off the bat, the rookies had access to the National Team coaches, boats and facilities."
With the U.S. team, Redman has traveled the world, but for her the best part is always the racing.
"So much of our year is spent in long, tedious, sweaty training sessions, so I relish any chance we have to race," she says.
She's also enjoyed sharing the experience with her U.S. teammates, who serve as her extended family.
"On my birthday a few years ago, we had an incredibly difficult practice. I was hot and tired, and to add insult to injury, I thought my teammates had forgotten my birthday," she says. "I trudged home, dejected. Unbeknownst to me, my pair partner had organized a huge surprise party for me - three cakes, a dozen pints of Ben & Jerry's, a fun plastic birthday tiara, both the men's and women's team. It was the best birthday of my life."
Redman has shared many of her experiences with the team on her blog – Around The Lake.
"Whenever I travelled, I would always buy 50 or so postcards and send them out to all my friends, family, roommates, teammates at home," she says. "But before long, I would use up all my Euros buying international stamps, so I decided to start blogging. It's a way to keep all my friends and supporters informed about my adventures with Team USA. There's been an incredible response. Just this past week, I had hits from over 30 countries."
Now a veteran with the U.S. team, Redman knows she has a decision to make about her future with the sport.
"For right now, I'm just focusing on London," she says. "After the Olympics, I'll need to sit down and have an honest heart-to-heart with myself about my future plans. On one hand, I have had a pretty good run – three Worlds medals, a world record – and on the other hand, I still have some unfinished business with the Olympics. I still want to race."
Story by Tim Bennett, Yale Sports Publicity