So far, there are a lot of new faces on the U.S. National Team this quadrennial on both the men’s and women’s side of things. In an effort to introduce rowing fans to the athletes representing us abroad, the NRF will highlight their stories and backgrounds. Up first, Ambrose Puttmann. He was a member of the Bronze medal-winning Men’s 8+ in 2013.
NRF: What’s the athletic background of your family?
AP: Both my parents played sports in high school, but have no real athletic background and didn’t compete in college. I have a big family, I’m actually one of seven. I’m the quiet one and feel like my parents let me get out of doing things more as a kid because of it.
NRF: What made you decide to row as a freshman in high school back in 2004?
AP: Well, basically my parents told me I had to do a sport. I tried to convince my dad to let me do bowling, but I ended up starting to row in the fall. I honestly didn’t really like it at first or really commit to it for a long time. I did end up really liking it sophomore year, I competed at high school nationals in the lightweight 4- and after that race realized how special and great the sport was.
NRF: What was the recruiting process like? Did you know you wanted to row in college?
AP: Well my junior year season wasn’t that great, I was frustrated and didn’t really want to row in college. But, by senior year, I did think about rowing in college. I applied to Dartmouth, Harvard and Brown, but wasn’t sure about rowing so I didn’t receive any recruiting support. By the spring of my senior year, I suddenly really wanted to row but hadn’t gotten in anywhere. My high school coach suggested that I talk to Luke McGee at University of Washington and so I gave him a call and talked to him the next day. He confirmed my grades, SATs and erg score and then encouraged me to apply. It was the middle of my racing season, I ended up getting in and really didn’t know anything about the program. I even asked my buddy if UW had a decent rowing program. As Luke put it, I was the easiest 6:04 he’d ever gotten in, I didn’t even take an official visit.
NRF: How did your experience at the University of Washington help prepare you for such a quick rise to the senior team?
AP: [Michael] Callahan likes to run the team in a national team style. We did a lot of pairs and were given a lot of personal responsibility. It made a big difference, even if I didn’t do a great job of it in college, I was aware of what I needed to do to perform. A lot is up to you, Callahan really tries to stress that, it’s the little things that make the difference. UW also has a lot of really good rowers. It wasn’t until senior year, after having rowed for seven years, that I had a eureka moment and realized that rowing harder doesn’t make you faster, but rowing better and not necessarily harder does.
NRF: Last year, you didn’t compete in Lucerne at the third World Cup, but was moved into the Men’s 8+ for the World Championships. How did that process work?
AP: Well, I came to Princeton last Spring and started training a lot later than the rest of the guys. I felt like I was playing catch up and while I seat raced most of the guys who went to Lucerne, I saw staying home as an opportunity to train. A small group of us stayed in Princeton and did a lot of racing in pairs. We knew Glenn [Ochal] had to leave because of his job following Lucerne, so we did more seat racing and it was very close. We didn’t find out who was in the boat until the afternoon of the naming date.
NRF: How’s your first year of full-time training going?
AP: It’s going well. I’m staying with a host family in Princeton with Seth and it’s been great. We keep each other sane and it’s nice to have someone to talk to and hangout with. The Taylors are a great host family, they let us eat their food, even got us Christmas presents and take really good care of us.
NRF: What do you want to do after you’re done rowing?
AP: I want to be a doctor. Both of my parents are doctors, my sister Mary is a doctor, my other sister is in medical school and my girlfriend just got into UW med school. I already took the MCATs and may apply at the end of 2015.
Check out Ambrose’s USRowing profile here: http://www.usrowing.org/Pressbox/AthleteBios/AmbrosePuttmann.aspx
Follow Ambrose (@Puttmannjr) on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/PuttmannJr