Cal rowing to make a splash in Tokyo

photo of Cal women's rower
Cal Athletics/Courtesy

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Bears have long been a part of the Olympic Games. Cal crew teams have struck gold for the United States three times at the games, more than any other university. This July, eight rowers will join the ranks of Cal Olympians when they hit the waters in Tokyo.

Five of those eight alumni hail from the women’s rowing program.

Alumnus Kara Kohler became the first U.S. rower to qualify for the Olympics in the single sculls event. Kohler punched her ticket in February after winning the event at the U.S. Olympic Rowing Trials. A 2011 All-American and Olympic bronze medalist, Kohler had no experience rowing until her college career at Cal.

Also representing the United States is Kendall Chase, who will compete on the women’s quad. Chase, who graduated in 2016, is a three-time gold medalist at the U23 World Rowing Championships. She also was on the varsity eight team that won an NCAA Championship in 2013.

Sydney Payne, another former All-American, will row for Canada on the women’s eight. During her time at Cal, Payne led the Bears to three undefeated regular seasons and two NCAA titles. Payne joins Team Canada with a wealth of international experience: She earned gold in the 2018 U23 World Championships.

Rowan McKellar will join her teammates in Tokyo on Team Great Britain. McKellar will compete as a part of the women’s four in her first Olympics appearance.

Rounding out Cal’s crew of international Olympians is Rosemary Popa, who will represent Australia. A dual citizen of the United States and Australia, Popa earned a silver medal at the 2019 World Championships. She will race in the coxless four in her Olympic debut.

Alongside Popa, Team Australia will also send alternate Jacinta Edmunds to the games. Edmunds has previously excelled at the international level, earning silver and bronze medals at the World Rowing Championships.

Lastly, former women’s assistant coach, Lauren Korholz, was recently named the assistant coach of the U.S. women’s team. Korholz has three Olympic appearances to her name, and has been on the Team USA Coaching staff since 2005. She was also named to the Pac-12 All Century Team.

From the men’s program, three Bears will represent Cal in Tokyo.

2016 graduate Julian Venonsky was named the coxswain of the United States men’s eight squad. Venonsky is a U.S. National team member and a three-time coxswain for the United States at the World Championships.

Rising sophomore Angus Dawson, the only current Bear to make an Olympic Team, will row for Australia. Dawson, who will compete on the varsity eight, departed from the Cal team in 2021 in order to row for the Australian National team. Dawson also won a gold medal in the World U23 Championships and the men’s pair at the 2021 Australian Rowing Championships.

Jack Cleary will also row for Team Australia. Cleary won bronze as part of the quadruple scull at the U23 World Championships. He made his senior debut in 2021, and will race on the quadruple scull at the Olympics.

Rising junior Ollie Maclean will also make the trip to Tokyo as a part of the reserve for Team New Zealand. Maclean began his collegiate career at Northeastern and finished seventh overall at the IRA National Championships. He was a part of the New Zealand Junior National Team and won a gold in the quad event at the U23 World Championships.

“It is extraordinary that we will have eight current student-athletes and recent graduates racing in the Tokyo Olympics,” said men’s coach Scott Frandsen. “I’m just excited that they will get this experience of competing at the Olympics and proud that they put in the work that earned them this opportunity to race at the highest level.”

In total, eight Bears are guaranteed to race at the Olympics. From July 23-30, all of them will row at the Sea Forest Waterway.

Aiko Sudijono is the deputy sports editor. Contact her at [email protected].