Front-Row Seat: Fairfield County Native Oliver Bub Heads to Paris Searching For Gold

Above: Oliver Bub and pairs partner William Bender on the water at the 2024 U.S. Olympic Team trials in April

All Olympians face road- blocks and detours on their way to representing Team USA.

Such is the case for Westport’s Oliver Bub whose path toward a berth on the men’s rowing team was nearly derailed in a critical stage in his development as an elite athlete. Like so many of his peers, COVID upended his hard work and best laid plans.

Happily, the 26-year-old Staples High School grad earned a spot on the U.S. team in April, when he partnered with William Bender to win the Men’s Pair at the trials in Sarasota, Fla. Their competition at the Summer Games in Paris begins on July 28.

Bub’s journey toward the Olympics began at Westport’s Saugatuck Rowing Club, where his parents and older brothers also competed. He won the Junior Nationals with teammate Lucas Manning in 2016 and headed to Dartmouth, where he was named the team’s Freshman of the Year. When he entered his final semester of senior year his trajectory seemed bright. “It felt like all the chess pieces were moving into the right spot,’’ Bub says.

Then the global pandemic hit, and sports were canceled, the 2020 Olympics were postponed for a year and Bub—and every other Olympic wannabe—found himself at a training crossroads. “For a few weeks it was rough,’’ he says. “I didn’t take much time off. I just kept training in the summer of that year. I only had a slight chance of making the team for Tokyo.”

The Tokyo Olympics (without fans) were finally held in 2021, but Bub turned his focus to competing for a spot on the ’24 team. He moved to Oakland, took a financial services job, which he also then quit to train for the U.S. team. He was named to the National Team in 2023 and competed on the Men’s 8 that finished sixth at the World Rowing Championships.

The Dartmouth-trained victorious duo
The Dartmouth-trained victorious duo

Enter Vermont-native William Bender (above, with Bub), who began at Dartmouth when Bub was headed out. He has one year of eligibility remaining but left school temporarily, to train at the California Rowing Club. Bender and Bub never rowed together at the Ivy but paired up three weeks before the trials to try and earn a spot on the U.S. team.

“Originally, I would have liked to have given it another shot with the 8,’’ Bub says. The Men’s 8 is considered the glamour event for international rowing. “It was pretty disappointing for me last summer. But we were removed from the selection pool for the 8. We felt like there would be a good opportunity for us in the pair. We pulled it out and the rest is history.”

He joins a list of rowers from Fairfield County who have been selected to the Men’s Rowing team. Dan Walsh of Norwalk, a two-time Olympian, earned a bronze medal in the Men’s 8. He was an alternate on the 2004 Men’s 8 that won gold. Andrew Campbell and Charlie Cole of New Canaan have also represented the county in the Olympics. The ’24 team also includes Kelsey Reelick of Brookfield and Liam Corrigan of Old Lyme.

Bub was part of the U.S. national team Men’s 8 boat that finished sixth at the 2023 World Rowing Championships.

“They were definitely examples of people who had a similar upbringing to me, grew up in a similar neighborhood and did pretty well,’’ Bub says about his Fairfield County Olympic prede- cessors. “The earliest person I looked up to was Max Meyer- Bosse at Saugatuck Rowing Club. He was a few years older than me, but he had a lot of success, and he was kind of the guy that I looked up to the most just because he also competed for Saugatuck.”

The goal now is to medal in Paris. Bub thinks having a strong relationship with Bender will be advantageous. “It’s very much like a marriage because we have to depend on each other to succeed,’’ Bub says. “Sometimes it can get a little testy, but you’ve got to be able to manage that well. I’m lucky to have a partner where we can do that and execute on race day. I think we manage that relationship well and we’re excited to see how we do.” So are we.

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