Men’s Champ Doubles

Penn AC Duo Stuns Champ Doubles’ Favorites

Rio medalists Mahe Drysdale (bow) and Olaf Tufte could manage only third.

Rio medalists Mahe Drysdale (bow) and Olaf Tufte could manage only third.

By Priyanka Ketkar — Posted on October 24, 2016

They are hardly without some strong rowing resumes. One finished fourth in the single scull in this year’s U.S. Olympic trials. The other represented the United States in the World Under-23 Championships two years ago.

But no one was expecting the Penn AC team of Justin Keen and Erik Frid to challenge a field that included nearly a dozen Olympians in Saturday’s championship doubles. But starting in bow position 19, they came up the windy course in 16:58 to claim a surprising, upset win, one that surprised even themselves.

“No, we really weren’t [expecting to win],” said Frid on Sunday morning.

“We expected we would be somewhere in the top five, but definitely not the first,” added Keen. “It was so windy and cold and we thought we would pass some boats but we definitely didn’t expect to win. We didn’t really believe it yesterday. We were back in the field and we passed a few boats. But since we were way back, we expected to pass a few boats but we didn’t realize… I think this morning, it is starting to sink in.”

The fact that the win came against such a star-studded field only added to their surprise and satisfaction. “No, never,” said Frid when asked if they’d thought they could beat the Olympians going in. “Those guys, they are my idols! But the thing about the Charles is that you never know what is going to happen.”

Keen grew up in Hatfield, Penn, and started rowing at Penn State. He is now working full time as an actuary for Cigna. Frid was born in Corpus Christi, Texas, learned to row in New Hampshire and graduated from Ithaca College in 2014. “I’m an undeclared major in life,” he says of his current situation. “But I like working with others, writing and photography.”

Second place was earned by Australian James McRae and Canadian Olympic medallist Julien Bahain, six seconds behind the winners. Olympic singles champion Mahe Drysdale and Norwegian bronze medallist Olaf Tufte, the pre-race favorites, were third, another 10 seconds back. Drysdale and Tufte had a moment of bother at the start where they were mistakenly called to the line too early. But Drysdale wasn’t using that as an excuse. “We love to win so we’re naturally disappointed but we realized we had a tough field to race and were under no illusion it would be easy,” he said after the race.

Four-time champions Tom and Peter Graves of Craftsbury finished fifth after tangling with a buoy just above the Eliot Bridge. The O’Donovan brothers of Ireland, who had gone viral after their hilarious post-Olympics interviews, finished eighth, one spot behind British Olympic finalists John Collins and Jonathan Walter.

But the day belonged to the previously unknown rowers from Philadelphia, and even the best sculler in the world was impressed. “They obviously rowed out of their skins,” said Drysdale.  “Obviously they had a fantastic performance and one of the great things about this race is there is a lot more to it than just being fast in a straight line.”

Follow Priyanka Ketkar on Twitter at: @PriyankaKetkar


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