Jake Wetzel (l) will row for gold in the men’s eight in Beijing, after winning a silver medal in the coxless fours in Athens – photo courtesy of Jake Wetzel
Jake Wetzel’s conceptual goal for the Beijing Olympics is to take one eight hundredths of a second out of his life. That was the margin of defeat for UBC student Wetzel and his three teammates in finishing second to Great Britain in the rowing coxless four event at the 2004 Athens Olympics.
“The Olympics is an accumulation of a lifetime of training brought together in a six-minute race,” says Wetzel. “Meeting and delivering on expectations is the greatest mental challenge of the Olympics.”
Born in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan to an American father and Swedish mother, Wetzel holds dual citizenship in Canada and the United States. He started out as a mountain biker on the Canadian Junior Cycling team, but was inspired by the 1996 Olympics rowing competition and in 1997 started in the freshman eight at Berkley, California. His extraordinary talent was immediately noticed, and he made the Canadian National Team in his first year — a rare accomplishment for any rower. He has won three world championships — two for Canada and one for the United States. His latest world championship was in 2007 when he joined UBC.
This summer, Wetzel will be rowing in the men’s eight event in Beijing and he is confident his team can win gold. “In the eight, members of the boat must be completely synchronized, unified and in tune with each other so that together they function as one unit,” says Wetzel.
His team recently raced in the Europe World Cup, which is the only pre-Olympic test event and won by a boat length. “Everyone we will be facing in Beijing was at that race and we did exceptionally well,” says Wetzel.
“Everything is coming together now. We are a well-oiled machine and we have the advantage that the majority of the crew has Olympic experience. Over the next few weeks we will continue to improve physically and technically.”
For Wetzel, the Beijing Olympics is his last shot to bring home a gold medal. “ When the athletic chapter of my life draws to a close I look forward to the challenge of returning to UBC in order to complete my Masters in Finance and I hope to continue on and attain a PhD.”