Thursday, July 29, 2021

Extraordinary Races

TigerBlog starts by sending his heartiest congratulations to Fred Vystavel, Class of 2016, on winning bronze in the men's lightweight rowing pairs at the Olympic Games.

There are few achievements in sports that can match winning an Olympic medal. TB has long believed that there has to be greater joy in winning bronze than gold or silver, since you've come so close to not medaling at all after all of the hard work that got you there. Coming in fourth has to really sting.

Vystavel and his partner Joachim Sutton (a graduate of the University of California) finished a solid third in the race, five seconds behind the winners from Croatia, more than three seconds behind the runners-up from Romania but also .55 seconds ahead of the fourth-place boat from Canada.

Vystavel's bronze gives Princeton 60 all-time Olympic medals. It also ensures that Princeton has won at least one medal at every Summer Olympic Games going back to 1960 other than the 1996 Games and the 1980 Games (which the U.S. boycotted).

As TB said, it's something extraordinary, and all of Princeton salutes Fred Vystavel.

Speaking of Olympic rowing, TigerBlog has finally learned the difference between "rowing" and "sculling."

It's actually pretty simple. In sculling, each person in the boat has two oars. In rowing (sometimes called "sweep rowing"), each person in the boat has one oar.

Claire Collins was on the United States four in rowing. Hannah Scott was on the Great Britain four in sculling. Both Princetonians helped their boats to finish first in the "B" final, or seventh place overall.

The next question for TB was whether or not a good rower is automatically a good sculler and vice versa, or are they completely separate disciplines. He found a story from 2017 on a website called rowperfect entitled "Sculling Makes Sweep Rowers Faster."

Regardless of that specific answer, it appears that Princeton also makes rowers faster. At least these Olympic Games say so.

The final Olympic rowing race will be contested this evening Princeton time and Friday morning Tokyo time (9:25 tonight Princeton time, 10:25 am tomorrow Tokyo time). It's the men's heavyweight 8, and it could be as fascinating an Olympic event as Princeton Athletics has ever seen.

Why's that?

There are six boats that have reached the final. Of those six, there are three different boats who have a Princeton alum among the eight rowers. 

That is simply extraordinary.

Tom George, Class of 2018, rows for Great Britain. Tim Masters, Class of 2015, rows for Australia. Nick Mead, Class of 2017, rows for the United States. 

The other three boats in the race are from Germany, the Netherlands and New Zealand. 

Princeton rowing has alums who have won medals in the same event for different countries on one occasion. That was back at the 2012 Games in London, where Caroline Lind won her second gold medal with the U.S. women's 8 and Canadians Andreanne Morin and Lauren Wilkinson won silver in the same race.

There have been several times when Princetonians won medals as teammates. Most recently, Susie Scanlan and Maya Lawrence won bronze in women's team epee fencing at the same Olympics where Wilkinson and Morin won their silvers.

Going back, it's happened three other times, all in hockey, though not all on ice. Gerald Hallock and Robert Livingston won silver in ice hockey in 1932 in Lake Placid. Did they have any clue what was going to happen there 48 years later, when the Games returned to the small town in upstate New York?

Four years later, in the German town of Garmisch Partenkirchen in 1936, Frederick Kammer and Malcolm McAlpin won bronze in ice hockey. At the infamous Summer Games in Berlin a few months later, Paul Fentress and Elwood Godfrey won bronze in the other hockey, men's field hockey.

And now there's a chance for some more Princeton history. Three rowers, three countries - all Princeton alums, all rowing for Olympic medals. 

That's a can't-miss event.

Also today in Tokyo, Ed Trippas runs in the semifinal round of the men's 3,000-meter steeplechase. That race is set for 8 pm Princeton time, so again, that's actually Friday morning at 9 am in Tokyo. 

Trippas, of course, is a rising Princeton senior who will be running cross country in a few weeks for the Tigers. First, though, there's the matter of the steeplechase at the Olympics, where Trippas hopes to make it three-straight times a Princeton runner has reached the steeplechase final, after Donn Cabral did so in 2012 and 2016. 

Trippas is Australian. Another Princeton alum, Lizzie Bird, will run the women's steeplechase for England Saturday.

And once again, you can follow all of Princeton's Olympians HERE

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