After nearly a week of competition, Princeton finally has its first medalist of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Fred Vystavel, who rowed for the Tigers from 2013–16, won the bronze medal for Denmark alongside teammate and UC Berkeley graduate Joachim Sutton in men’s pair rowing on Thursday morning in Tokyo. With the third-place finish, Vystavel becomes the 60th Princetonian to medal at an Olympic Games.
The Danish pair came in second in their semifinal heat on Wednesday, losing to the Romanian team by just over one second, but their top-three finish was good enough to secure them a spot in the final.
The two finished behind Romania and Croatia, the silver and gold medalists, respectively, in the final, but managed to beat the fourth-place Canadians by over half of a second to secure their spot on the podium.
The medal is the latest in a recent string of rowing medals for Princetonians at the Summer Games. Former Tigers have now won rowing medals in each of the last five Olympics, stretching back to the 2004 Athens Games, coming away with a total of 11 medals and three golds. In fact, of Princeton’s 60 Olympic medals, 21 have come from rowing events.
Coincidentally, the Tigers won their first rowing medal at the Tokyo Olympics in 1964, when Seymour Cromwell ’65 came away with silver in the men’s double scull.
Pair rowing, where Vystavel competes, is completely different from double sculls, however, despite the fact that both events have two rowers in the boat. When sculling, both rowers hold two oars, while in pair rowing, each rower holds one oar.
During his time at Princeton, Vystavel excelled in the pair event, leading Princeton to a 7–1 record in his senior year. He also won three consecutive silvers in the event at the national championships from 2014–16.
Vystavel did not respond to request for comment by the time of publication. In an interview with row2k.com, he spoke about how it feels to be an Olympic medalist.
“I feel lost for words,” Vystavel said. “Just really happy and grateful. Grateful for the support we've been getting for the last few days, and the last few weeks and months, and since we started this pair last year. It's just hard not to smile and just feel the weight of this medal. It's just surreal.”
He also touched on the importance of his time at Princeton in developing his rowing acumen. He said rowing in the American collegiate system gave him and his teammate Sutton “a mutual understanding in terms of how we go about training and racing.”
“And even though the culture kind of might be a little bit different in certain areas, there's still the same just racing — racing and more racing,” he added.
Three more Princetoinans will have a chance to medal in rowing at this year’s Olympics. In several hours, Nick Mead ’17, Tim Masters ’15, and Tom George ’18 will compete in the final round of the 8+ event representing the United States, Australia, and Great Britain, respectively.