NORWALK, Conn. – When the Summer Olympics start this week, millions will tune in on television. Norwalk native Dan Walsh doesn't figure he’ll be among them.
Walsh, 33, won a bronze medal in rowing in the 2008 Summer Olympics and was an alternate on the 2004 U.S. team. He was a member of the national team for 11 years. But this year, he was not selected to join the team heading to England. He is now retired from the sport.
“Truthfully, I don’t know if I’ll watch,’’ Walsh said. “I wish them the best. I have a lot of brothers in arms that I’ll be pulling for. But I don’t foresee myself waking up at four in the a.m. to watch a race I really wanted to be in. I never liked watching sports any way.”
Walsh rowed for the U.S. Men’s 8+ at the 2011 World Rowing Championships in Lucerne, Switzerland. He won his Olympic medal with that crew in 2008, and spent the last four years working to get back to the Olympics. In April, however, just a few weeks before the team was announced, Walsh developed ulcers due to a medical issue with his esophagus.
“Once they diagnosed it, I was on medication and we got it under control,’’ Walsh said. “But it wasn't enough time to bounce back. I was having a pretty good camp, winning seat races and my erg(ometer) scores were good. As soon as the stomach thing started happening, my performance was off just enough.”
Walsh said if he had sufficient recovery time, he may have been able to bounce back. “Towards the end, I could see the writing on the wall,’’ he said. “It was obvious I wasn't making the boat go as fast as it needed to go. As much as it hurts, it’s the reality of being an athlete.”
When Walsh was not named to the Men’s 8+, he considered a competing for a spot on the Men’s 2x and the Men’s 4x. He went for the quad, but was not named to the U.S. team. “Sculling is a different discipline,’’ Walsh said. “The stomach issue was lingering and if you’re not on your game, there’s someone that is.”
Walsh fought to the end. Certainly he wishes it had ended differently. His fiancée, Keri Yednak, helped him find perspective.
“I’ve been doing this for 12 years, so I’m no dummy when someone is put out to pasture,’’ Wash said. “When I called Keri, she reminded me that I had an awesome career and achieved things others haven’t. It’s time to look forward to our life together. It’s pretty emotional, but now I get to do things like go to a friend’s wedding, make a living, watch my niece swim and maybe even go to Fisher Island with the family.”
Walsh and Yednak will be married Sept. 15. He interviewed for an assistant coaching position at his alma mater, Northeastern University, earlier this week. He and Yednak have moved back East after spending the last few years in California.
Certainly it hurts Walsh not to be in London. All in all, though, his rowing run with the U.S. national team will forever be one of the greatest sports accomplishments in the history of Norwalk sports.
“The nice thing is, I wanted to retire the national team oar one way or another after the Olympics,’’ Walsh said. “I got back into it after Beijing because I knew I wanted to win. I’ve been rowing since 1992, and at an intense level since my senior year in high school. I’m looking forward to moving on to other things.”