Alumnus competes in World Rowing Championships

By Jessica Barzilay

Alex Osborne ’05 ascended to the U.S. National Team and competed Aug. 23-30 at the 2009 World Rowing Championships in Poznan, Poland. Along with fellow Stanford alumnus Jake Cornelius, Osborne rowed as a member of the U.S. men’s eight boat team. The team finished third in final round B, but despite failing to medal, Osborne treasures the experience of competing at the international level as the “biggest thing I’ve ever done.”

Osborne had never rowed prior to his freshman year at Stanford, but after a visit from the crew coach, Osborne decided to join the university’s extensive beginners’ program. By sophomore year, he had improved tremendously and pursuing rowing as more than just a recreational activity “became a possibility,” he said. When he began as a freshman, Osborne looked up to a senior in the program, Adam Kreek, who went on to win gold at the Beijing Olympics for the U.S. Osborne cites Kreek’s skill and success as his main inspiration to work hard for the team.

“Having that influence early on makes it seem natural,” Osborne said of watching a teammate achieve international victories and being inspired to do the same.  

Osborne played basketball, golf and football in high school, but he wasn’t passionate about training for any one sport until he joined the crew team. Athletic Director Darlene Bible recalls Osborne as “a terrific kid, a nice guy and a great athlete,” she said.

“I’ve worked so much harder for it than anything else I’ve ever done,” he said.

Including Osborne, three Stanford alumni represented the U.S. at the World Rowing Championships this year and according to Osborne, around six undergraduates at Stanford are training in hopes of one day competing at the Olympics.

In the past, Osborne has received various honors for his rowing successes. In the season of his senior year of college, Osborne was a part of an eight boat team that seized the silver medal at the Pac-10 Championships and earned a national bronze medal at the IRA Championships. Individually, Osborne was selected for the All-Pac-10 Team and received the title Pac-10 men’s Rowing Athlete of the Year. In the summer of 2008, Osborne was a member of the U.S. men’s eight boat squad that won the gold medal at the Under 23 World Rowing Championships in Brandenburg, Germany.

Crew is unique in that it is an amateur sport; while other athletes are rewarded with major salaries, professional rowers must work part time jobs in order to support themselves. As a result, Osborne, an economics major, works part time for an aircraft leasing company. His days consist of four or five hours of rowing and four or five hours of working.

Osborne continues to juggle his responsibilities at work with his rowing commitments. Being part of the U.S. National Team was a realization of his efforts to date, but Osborne plans to continue rowing and “chase his dreams,” he said.