The U.S. men’s eight earned its way to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games by taking first place Tuesday at the Final Olympic Qualification Regatta in Lucerne, Switzerland.
The crew of Sam Ojserkis, Austin Hack, Rob Munn, Mike DiSanto, Steve Kasprzyk, Glenn Ochal, Alex Karwoski, Hans Struzyna and Sam Dommer covered the Rotsee course in 5:29.16, 0.46 seconds ahead of Poland. The U.S. boat charged from third place after 500 meters to overtake the Poles, who had led until the final meters of the race. The top two finishers received the final two entries to Rio.
An interesting blend of youth and experience, the boat includes only two rowers who will compete at their second Olympic Games. Kasprzyk, the old man of the boat at age 34, helped power the U.S. eight to a fourth-place finish at the London 2012 Olympic Games, while Ochal won a bronze medal in the four in London.
The crew by the numbers: Five (Ojserkis, Hack, Munn, Karwoski and Dommer) were part of the eights crew that won a bronze at the second world cup stop in 2015; four (Ojserkis, Munn, Struzyna and Dommer) rowed collegiately at the University of Washington; three (Ojserkis, Hack and Munn) won gold in the eight at the U23 world championships in either 2011, 2012 or both; two (DiSanto and Struzyna) have not raced eights to any significant results at the senior level prior to Tuesday; and one (Kasprzyk) won gold in the eight at the Guadalajara 2011 Pan American Games.
The inclusion of the men’s eight give the United States 11 boats out of a possible 14 in Rio. Three boats were unable to qualify in Lucerne: the men’s single, double and quadruple sculls.