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Row to London: Finding His Way in The USA

May 21, 2012

Moving to a new home as a kid is often not fun. Just ask Henrik Rummel.

He not only moved to a new home and a new school twice, but he moved to a new country both times. Born in Copenhagen, Denmark, his family first moved to Sweden when Rummel was nine and then moved to Rochester, N.Y., when he was 12.

“It was really difficult,” Rummel said of the move from Sweden to the United States. “When you move like that, especially in the eighth grade, because eighth grade was pretty cliquey, it was hard to make friends. I was pretty socially awkward and culturally, it was very different. It was definitely a hard transition.”

While Rummel was a citizen and spoke English – his father Geoff was a United States citizen living and working for a U.S. company in Denmark when he met and married Rummel’s mother, Nina, who is a Danish citizen and a doctor – he didn’t fit in and didn’t have a sport he could compete in.

He played basketball in Europe, but when he got to Rochester, he found that he didn’t stack up.

“Everyone else here was so much better than I was, and I kind of got scared away from that.”

So he took up competitive skiing and then when a ski team friend joined the nearby Pittsford Crew team, Rummel’s mother signed him up as well.

And that’s when things got better.

Rummel, who is 6’5, was perfectly suited for crew. He excelled at the junior level, rowed on the United States Junior National Team, and was recruited to Harvard University where he rowed and won an Eastern Sprints Championship in 2007.

Today, Rummel, 24, is a six-time national team athlete and he is training in the hopes of making the 2012 U.S. Olympic team that will compete this summer in London.

In his time with the U.S. national team, Rummel has rowed in three senior world championships, one under 23 world championship, and two junior world championships – winning a gold medal in 2009 in the pair with coxswain at senior worlds, gold in the eight at the 2008 World Rowing Under 23 championships and gold in the eight in the 2005 World Rowing Junior Championships.

And though he has dual citizenship and has been asked to come back and row for Denmark by his friends on that team, his dream is to row for the United States in the Olympics.

“There have been times when I thought maybe it would be cool to go back home and row for Denmark, but I moved over here, I started rowing here, and most of my rowing friends are American,” he said. “And when I started on the junior team, that was the only thing that was available to me at the time. There wasn’t really a choice to go Denmark or America.

“I kind of feel I’ve been part of the U.S. team for a long time now, even if it was the junior or under 23 team. So it was kind of natural to go to the next level. I can’t say I’ve ever seriously thought of transferring my rowing citizenship.”

Last summer, Rummel was in the eight that fell short of qualifying for the 2012 Olympic Games at the world championships in Slovenia. This year, he is at the USRowing Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif., in the camp from which the men’s four will be selected. The four is a qualified boat, and if he is selected, his Olympic dream will come true.

If not, there is still the 2016 Olympic Games and Rummel is planning on sticking around for at least another full four-year cycle.

“Like everyone else, I want to win a gold medal,” he said. “I’ve always been very competitive and I guess I want the glory of it. I like competing, but I love winning even more. I don’t know many people that like to lose.

“I’m not going to just make the team and call it quits,” he said. “I want to give this a shot when I’m at my prime. I’m 24, so I think there is a little while before that hits. I’m definitely learning and I’m still getting a lot faster. I want to see how it goes when I am at my peak, which is why I want to stick around another four years.”

With the eight in Lucerne this week at the Final Olympic Qualification Regatta, Rummel believes the boat will qualify and that the U.S. team will be fast this summer.

“It’s gone more sour than we would have liked, but we have faith in what we’re doing,” he said. “I think this year we’re going to surprise some people. I think we’re going to do pretty well.”


Rummel graduated from Harvard University with a degree in Applied Mathematics, Economics and hopes to someday work in the world of finance . . .  “I really like math and I would love to work somewhere in that sector” . . . He likes being outdoors, hiking, surfing, and skiing, but right now that’s all on hold during the run for the Olympics and he spends his free time either reading or sleeping . . . Rummel speaks English, Danish, Swedish, German and some French . . . His mother is a doctor in the Danish military and has served in both Afghanistan and Iraq. . . He lists her as his personal hero and says having a mom in a war zone “is not fun at all. The worst thing is you can’t communicate with her too much, except for email. She was able to call home once every couple of weeks. But it’s hard. The first time she was over there, there was a lot of fighting and she was in the operating room helping soldiers who were wounded and that was really, really tough.”

Ed Moran

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