8/8/2016 11:22 AM | By: Anton Malko
This feature originally appeared in the Summer edition of the Cal Sports Quarterly. The Cal Athletics flagship magazine features long-form sports journalism at its finest and provides in-depth coverage of the scholar-athlete experience in Berkeley. Printed copies are mailed four times a year to Bear Backers who give annually at the Bear Club level (currently $600 or more). For more information on how you can receive a printed version of the Cal Sports Quarterly at home, send an email to email@example.com or call (510) 642-2427.
As he was getting set for his third Olympics representing the Netherlands at the 2016 Rio Games, former men's crew standout Olivier Siegelaar added another accolade to his already impressive resume: Pac-12 Postgraduate Scholarship recipient.
Siegelaar rowed for the Golden Bears in 2010, when he and his varsity eight teammates won the IRA national championship, and 2011, when he received all-conference honors. He then competed at the London Olympics – his second following Beijing in 2008 – before returning to Berkeley to complete his degree in mechanical engineering.
Having been accepted to Oxford University to pursue an MBA, Siegelaar was named a 2016 recipient of $9,000 from the Pac-12's Postgraduate Scholarship Program to honor outstanding scholar athletes and provide assistance for their graduate study.
"Being a student-athlete at Cal has played a big role in shaping me as a person," Siegelaar said. "It taught me to be committed, to handle adversity and the importance of teamwork. It enabled me to aim for the top in every aspect of life."
Navigating the University's prestigious mechanical engineering program as he maintained a full schedule with the rowing team made Siegelaar's 3.1 GPA all the more impressive, but just as impressive was the maturation that he experienced at Cal having arrived as an internationally accomplished rower. A mainstay in the varsity eight, he also found the time to tutor children at Emerson Elementary School in Berkeley while managing his responsibilities on the water and in the classroom.
Taking leave from Cal to pursue an Olympic medal at the London Games, Siegelaar added another challenge to his plate during that period with an internship on the trading floor of the investment bank Kempen & Co in Amsterdam before returning to Berkeley to finish his undergraduate degree. Despite having no eligibility to remain an active member of the team, he put his gratitude into action and contributed everything he could as a mentor and tutor to the rowing program.
"He arrived at Cal as a super-talented rower on the Dutch Olympic team, but at Cal he evolved. He became the ultimate team guy," said Mike Teti, head coach of men's rowing at Cal and himself a multi-time Olympic rower and coach. "You could see how the University was a great learning experience for him. A lot of international rowers are brought up in a very high-performance system, but in my opinion Olivier made his biggest gains, both physiologically and technically, at Cal."
After graduating and taking a summer internship with Goldman Sachs in New York City, Siegelaar decided that he could continue to pursue another Olympics even with a full-time job, and in doing so, credited Cal for showing him it could be possible.
"Being a student-athlete at Cal taught me how to find a balance between the classroom and academics, a skill that been crucial to striving for success," Siegelaar said. "I will forever be a proud member of the Cal family. It's my wish to inspire the new generations of Golden Bears by continuing to excel athletically, academically and professionally."
Teti said the spectrum of challenges and achievements that every student-athlete gets the opportunity to embrace at Cal was a major boost to Siegelaar's already impressive skill set.
"One of the things he learned at Cal, as I did in my first World Championship, is that there are many roads to Rome," Teti said. "Ever since he left, going into every major race we're in, I get an email or text from him, before and after. He's been really supportive, a great mentor to our guys and he's certainly a deserving recipient of this honor."