GoPrincetonTigers.com will provide profiles, video interviews and Q&As of each of its eight rowers headed to the London Olympics. See the schedule below:
Monday: Caroline Lind '06
Tuesday: Robin Prendes '11 l Lauren Wilkinson '11
Wednesday: Sara Hendershot '10 l Sam Loch '06
Thursday: Glenn Ochal '08 l Gevvie Stone '07
Friday: Andréanne Morin '06 l Daily Olympic Schedule
Glenn Ochal had a pretty nice thing going.
He was at his alma mater, coaching with one of his closest friends, and enjoying a highly successful season. He was young, close to his hometown, working on a lake that had brought him so many memories.
So to choose to put it all on hold and move all the way across the country meant there must be one major pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
Forget the pot; Ochal is hoping the gold is in the form of an Olympic medal.
Ochal, who rowed in the 2006 Eastern Sprint and Henley champion heavyweight varsity eight, has been a “local guy makes good,” story in Philadelphia. A successful rower at Roman Catholic High, he made the short trip to Princeton and took on a major role in the senior-dominated 2006 heavyweight eight during his sophomore season.
It was no easy seat to fill. That crew had the highest of expectations; after two years of falling just short of Harvard and a lineup full of seniors, it was now or never.
Ochal, who had impressed then-freshman coach Greg Hughes with a historic winter workout, had to perform up to his older teammates’ level to ensure Princeton the best chance at gold.
He did his part, helping Princeton to two golds and a silver at the IRA national championship. And that experience would serve him well in his Olympic quest six years later.
“I think Princeton is one of the big reasons I am here,” Ochal said. “I owe so much to Curtis Jordan, Marty Crotty and Greg Hughes, as well as the guys I rowed with at Princeton. Much of my development came rowing in the 2006 varsity. There were two Olympians in that boat. I was younger, only a sophomore, so those were the guys who taught me how to row in a race. They are a big reason I am here today.”
Rowing has remained in Ochal’s blood, even if Princeton never quite matched the heavyweight success from 2006 the rest of his career. He is a seven-year veteran of the national team, and he has had multiple Top-10 finishes in the pairs or quads at various World Cup regattas over the last three years.
But the Olympics are another story, and it took a greater commitment. Despite the fact that he had a strong first season as an assistant coach under Crotty with the IRA national champion 2010 men’s lightweight crew, Ochal had to leave the position.
“They moved the training out to San Diego, so I had a pretty big choice there,” he said. “Do I stay in Princeton to coach and train by myself? I thought it was in my best interest to get out there as quickly as possible and train with the team.”
USRowing announced on June 4 that the men’s four which will represent the United States will include Scott Gault (Piedmont, Calif.), Charlie Cole (New Canaan, Conn.), Henrik Rummel (Pittsford, N.Y.) and Ochal.
“It wasn’t always my goal to make the Olympics,” Ochal said, “but as I went through high school and college, it became something I hoped to pursue. We had fun putting this boat together, and we were named in early June. It was a good moment.”
The U.S. hasn’t medaled in the fours in two decades, but Ochal knows that the process can’t be over-complicated just because of the setting.
“It’s the same thing we do every day in practice,” he said. “We’re just rowing the boat. We’re going to try to make the boat go as fast as possible. There is no way they can slow us down. There is no way we can slow them down. We have to get from Point A to Point B as fast as possible.
“You could think, this is the Olympics,” he added. “I have to go a lot harder. In reality, you don’t. You have to do the same thing you do in practice.”
The former coach would know best.