Glenn Ochal & Olympic Reflections

By Sparks Editorial Staff | September 23, 2012

Looking back on the 2012 Olympic experience, I initially think of the past four years. In the fall of 2008, I began training with a small group of guys in Princeton, New Jersey attempting to make the US National Team. A few rowed in Beijing and a few of us were new to the camp. That began a four-year journey, two years in Princeton, followed by two years at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, CA., training twice a day, six days a week interspersed with numerous trips to World Cup Regattas and three World Championships appearances.

The past four years were long, tough, grueling, exhausting…typical to that of a rower who trains full time. However I believe the four years previous to this, in college, opened up the opportunity for London 2012. I rowed at Princeton University, one of the leading academic institutions in the US, as well as the home of one of the best rowing programs. During my time enrolled as an undergraduate I had an exceptional experience, in the classroom and on the water.

"During my time enrolled as an undergraduate I had an exceptional experience, in the classroom and on the water."

My experience began with Curtis Jordan, Greg Hughes and Marty Crotty. As my coaches at Princeton, they had a vision for the program, one they believed would make it successful, and worked tirelessly teaching young men not only how to row but also how to be great teammates and competitors. Given I kept with rowing after graduation, my relationship with each of them grew stronger, as they were the ones to go for advice and direction.

In addition to the coaches were my teammates. While I was visiting Princeton on an official visit as a senior in high school, I got to spend some time with the guys on the team. This is when I knew Princeton was the place for me. I liked everyone on the squad. They were all very welcoming and helpful on the visit in addition to displaying dedication to athletics and academics. Once enrolled, as a group, we set our goals high. As an underclassman, I learned from the senior leaders how to train hard and race well. We raced competitively each season and while we won our share of races, we also came up short many times. Nevertheless, I was proud of my teammates and how we competed each and every race, and I enjoyed these moments the most.

"I found a university that was the best fit for me, and believe that was very important to my growth. Each and every student has a university that fits them well and I am excited to help find an environment they will thrive in, both as a student and a rower. "

Without such an experience, I would not have made it to London. I love rowing, and I love it because I found the university that had guys who I enjoyed rowing with, coaches I enjoyed rowing for, and a tradition that helped me become the best athlete possible. I am thankful to everyone I have rowed with and the coaches I have rowed under, for they have all contributed to my success.

After coaching for a few years at Princeton University, I joined the Sparks team as an Academic Consultant in July of 2011. I decided to join the group because I wanted young student-athletes have a collegiate experience similar to mine. I found a university that was the best fit for me, and believe that was very important to my growth. Each and every student has a university that fits them well and I am excited to help find an environment they will thrive in, both as a student and a rower.