Sport: Men's rowing (single scull)
Twitter (not really active): @NatanW_S
Birthday: January 5th, 1995 (age 21)
Hometown: Krakow, Poland
Cal affiliation: current California Golden Bears student (rising junior)
Years at Cal: 2014-
Olympic appearances: 2016 will be Natan's 1st Olympic games
Current Cal men's crew rower Natan Wegrzycki-Szymczyk is a member of the Varsity 8 team (he is in the first seat) that won the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) National Championship just back in early June. Natan and the Golden Bears also won the Pac-12 earlier this season - a first for the Bears since 2009.
In short: a Pac-12 title, a national championship, and a trip to Rio as a first time Olympian, 2016 is a good year for Natan Wegrzycki-Szymczyk.
Natan has represented his native Poland in international rowing competition for a while now. In International competitions, he has always been a sculler (which is a different motion than sweeping, which he did not learn to do until he has joined the Golden Bears in Berkeley).
After at least a couple of years competing in the Junior World Championships (he won the single scull event in 2013), Natan has been on the senior team since 2014.
At the Senior World Championships in 2015, Natan Wegrzycki-Szymczyk finished in 9th place to book a spot in this year's Olympic games.
More on Natan and his Rio outlook:
Hailing from Poland, Natan has rowing in his blood. His father is also a rower and now his coach since 2010 in single scull. Natan picked up his first oar when he was just one year old, according to his profile on World Rowing. Given that he is going to the Olympic, Natan has obviously proven to be a natural rower.
Asked about why he likes to row in the single sculls event, Natan replied:
I like the feeling that everything depends on me. It makes me stronger. I like to train alone and have control. I see progress week after week. I know my capabilities and barriers and I learn how to pass them.
More insightful information on Natan can be found in a Q&A that he did with Row2k this year (from which I pulled the quotes below).
This is how Natan ends up at Cal.
row2k - You're in your second year at Cal, how did you end up in Berkeley?
Natan Wegrzycki-Szymczyk - I never expected that I would end up studying in the US. After the 2013 Junior World Championships when I won the single scull event, I was emailed by coaches who expressed interest in me coming to the United States to row. I came to Berkeley because I thought that Cal had both a great rowing program and strong academics. I had heard before about coach Teti, and I had good contact with the recruiting coach, which made the decision easier.
For all of his success thus far, 2016 has proven to be a busy year for Natan.
row2k - You have quite schedule for the spring, what races are you attending and how has coach Teti helped you to prepare for the season?
Natan Wegrzycki-Szymczyk - This spring season will be very busy for me. My first race will be at World Cup I in Varese in the single. I will leave Berkeley for one week to go to Italy and then I come back and race for Cal until the IRA's. After IRA's I will probably race at World Cup III and later in August at the Olympics. Coach Teti has been very supportive of me and has worked with me to make staying at Cal this year possible while still pursuing my Olympic dreams. He is pushing me so I do my best on and off the water.
Unlike many other Calympians, who took the year off from school to concentrate on making it to Rio, Natan trains with the rest of the Cal team and had success and fun in a historic year. This is what he had to say about his Cal experience:
Being on a team like Cal is very different from what I was used to back home. At home I train alone, now I row with other people which is a much more competitive environment. I learned how to cooperate with others and how to be more of a teammate. It is fun for me to train on a large team, and is one of the main reasons I didn't want to take a year off from Cal.
Natan credit Cal to make him stronger physically. After a tough 2015 when he was injured in the winter (beginning of the year) in his freshman season at Cal, Natan bounced back to qualify for the Olympic in the summer.
2015 was a rough year, I was injured in the winter, then, I had 3 months in the single after I came back from IRA's. In France I could compete with the best single scullers on a similar level. I had the opportunity to race guys who a few years ago I was watching winning medals for many years. It was amazing and made me believe that nothing is impossible.
How much Natan has improved from an year ago when he finished 9th will decide whether he can be in contention for a medal in Rio.
Best of luck to Natan in Rio and ROW ON YOU BEARS!