When Henrik Rummel ’09 was born in Copenhagen 24 years ago, few would have expected him to become an Olympic athlete.
Fewer would have expected him to be competing for the United States.
But after a long journey that saw him move from Denmark to Sweden to Rochester, N.Y., and eventually to Cambridge, Mass., Rummel—the son of an American businessman and Danish military doctor—will row for the men’s heavyweight four at the London Games that start a week from Friday.
MADE IN AMERICA
Despite spending most of his childhood in Denmark, Rummel says there was never a question as to whether he would choose to row internationally as an American or a Dane.
“I started rowing here in the United States, and so I never really even considered rowing for Denmark,” Rummel said. “I’ve spent most of my adult life here, and I definitely feel an allegiance to America.”
Rummel, who speaks without an accent and is proficient in English, Danish, Swedish, and German, took up rowing in 2001 after realizing that he could not compete at a high level in his first athletic love, basketball.
Eleven years later, the 6’5” Rummel has spent six years rowing for the national team, first at the Junior Level in 2004-2005, then in 2008 at the Under-23 level before joining senior team in 2009.
Even so, rowing on the Olympic crew was not on his radar until it became apparent that it was a realistic possibility.
“I didn’t even know that I wanted to keep training after college when I started college,” Rummel said.
“Eventually, slowly, I came to that realization. At the U-23 camp in ’08, I went in and was racing against all the other college kids—the best guys in the country—and I was doing really well. So I thought, alright this might be possible. But that was four years ago. There was definitely no guarantee that I’d achieve anything, but I knew I had a shot.”
In Rummel’s first year with the Crimson 1V, he was part of a 2007 crew that won the EARC Sprints as well as the Ladies’ Challenge Plate at the Henley Royal Regatta. But the crew failed to win the most important race of all: the famed Harvard-Yale Regatta, where the team fell to the Bulldogs by five-10ths of a second. Rummel and the rest of the 1V rebounded to win the next two years, including a dominant 20-second victory in 2009.
“The great thing about Harvard is that there are current and past athletes who are and have been at that level that I really wanted to be at when I was there,” Rummel said. “The marks are there, you never really get lost in yourself, and you always have something to compete against.”
Rummel, along with fellow Olympic newcomer Brodie Buckland ’06 and defending gold-medalist Malcolm Howard ’05 in the eight, will be the eighth Harvard heavyweight trained by legendary coach Harry Parker to compete in the Olympics since 2004.