As the Olympics get underway, yet another Penn rower will be a participant: Dara Alizadeh will be competing in the single sculls event for Bermuda.
Alizadeh, who graduated from Penn in 2015, will become just the third rower in Olympic history to represent Bermuda at the Games, joining Jim Butterfield (Munich 1972) and Shelley Pearson (Rio 2016).
In addition to his rowing duties, Alizadeh was also the one holding the Bermudian flag during Friday’s Opening Ceremonies.
“It’s hard to put into words, it’s the dream,” he said to The Royal Gazette. “Just getting to compete here is a dream in [and of] itself. Then to be the flag bearer is like the super dream! I would not have imagined that any time in my life!”
Alizadeh qualified for the Games after earning a third place finish in the B final of the Americas rowing qualifier, which took place in March in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. To earn a spot in the Olympics, he needed to get one of five qualifying spots in the single sculls event, and his third-place finish allowed him to do just that.
His Olympic berth comes after a period of time in which the Games were moved back to account for COVID-19. During the elongated stretch, Alizadeh tried to put himself in a position where he'd still be able to compete at a high level when trying to qualify.
“I was obviously pretty bummed,” Alizadeh said to Cambridge Independent. “It had been what I had been getting up for every morning at 4:30 AM, so I felt pretty sorry for myself for about a week. Then I realised, ‘Snap out of it.’ This was the reality, and I changed the perspective to ‘how am I going to come out of this better? This is the situation, how am I going to benefit from it?’"
Prior to his Olympic prep, Alizadeh competed in the Penn men’s heavyweight Varsity Eight boat as an undergraduate. Then, once his Quaker career wrapped up, Alizadeh notched a silver medal with the United States’ Men’s Eight at the U23 World Rowing Championships in Plovdiv, Bulgaria.
Additionally, he won a few Boat Races with Cambridge University in 2018 and 2019, and he has competed as Bermuda’s single sculler in numerous international venues.
Going into the Games, Alizadeh is excited about the opportunity to compete at the highest level and show what he's capable of doing.
“What an opportunity and what a fun thing to get to go to the Olympics,” Alizadeh said to Cambridge Independent. “This is the stage, let’s see what you can do, not for anyone else – this is for me. I don’t have a pay cheque resting on this, or anything else. I’ve been working for a long time on this, now is the opportunity to tie all the pieces together.”
Joining Alizadeh in the rowing sphere will be Regina Salmons, another Penn grad, who will be competing for the U.S. in the Women’s Eight.
The Olympics have already begun and will run through August 8. The rowing events will take place from July 23-30, and Alizadeh has already seen some competition time, having finished fourth in heat four on Friday to qualify him to compete in the repechage at 7:40 pm ET later that day.