On Friday in Tokyo, three former Princeton teammates competed against each other in the Olympic men’s eight rowing final.
American Nick Mead ’17, Australian Tim Masters ’15, and Brit Tom George ’18 all rowed for their home countries in the contest, which saw six crews face off at Sea Forest Waterway.
To qualify for the finals in men’s eight, a crew must either win their preliminary heat or qualify from a repechage (a race where crews who did not win their heats compete for the remaining spots in the final). In the first heat on July 24, Germany edged out the United States by 1.6 seconds and the Australia by 14.7 seconds, sending both the Americans and the Australians to the repechage. Great Britain finished third in their heat, 3.7 seconds behind the Netherlands, consigning them to the same fate.
In the repechage, the top four out of five crews would qualify for the final. New Zealand came in first, with Great Britain, the United States, and Australia following in that order. Romania was left out of the final. This meant that unless New Zealand, Germany, and the Netherlands swept the podium, at least one Princetonian would win a medal in the final.
George and Great Britain were at the front of the pack with New Zealand and Germany in the first 1,000 meters of the final, holding their position even as the Kiwis began to surge at the 500-meter mark. And while Australia languished in a distant last for much of the race, the American crew rowed an excellent “third quarter” (meters 1,000-1,500), gaining ground on both Great Britain and Germany, and pulling away from the Dutch.
But Germany and Great Britain rowed the first- and second-best final 500 meters, respectively, leaving Mead and the Americans just off of the podium in 4th. For the first time since the 1908 London Olympics, the United States will not earn a medal in rowing. George and Great Britain ended up in third, making George the recipient of Princeton’s 61st Olympic medal all-time. Masters and Australia finished last.
As for other Princetonian medalling opportunities in these games, look out for Ashleigh Johnson ’17, who is the goalkeeper for the United States women’s water polo team. She and her teammates will be looking to defend their gold medal from the 2016 Rio Olympics.