Tokyo Calympian: Julian Venonsky, Rowing, USA
The last but not least member of the Cal Men’s Rowing 2016 national champion turned first-time Calympian is the coxswain, Julian Venonsky. Venonsky will serve in the same role for the USA Men’s Eight in Tokyo.
And with that my collegiate rowing career comes to an end.. I love each of these people beyond words and I am beyond proud to call ourselves National Champions..#GoBears
Event: Men’s Eight
Hometown: Malvern, PA
Olympic Appearance: 1st
Age: 27 (October 15, 1993)
Cal connection: Alumnus (‘16, Art History)
Cal accomplishments: 2016 IRA National Champion
Venonsky will be one of three USA Calympian rowers in Tokyo. He is joined by Kendall Chase (Women’s Four) and 2012 Bronze medalist Kara Kohler.
Despite his small size (5’6”, 120 lb), Julian Venonsky started his rowing journey as a rower in high school. He rowed lightweight in high school before transitioning to be a coxswain in college. After he coxed the Four as a freshman, he led the Cal 2V8+ boat to the national title in 2014. He then closed out his collegiate career with the V8+ IRA national title in 2016 for the biggest prize in collegiate rowing.
As a coxswain, which I transitioned to as I entered Cal's program, I fell in love with the sport again from a different perspective. I think it clicked my sophomore year at Cal when I was in the 2V coached by Scott Frandsen. The group of guys was amazing - fun, not too serious, but real racers. We went on to win the PAC-12, IRA, and then the Ladies' Challenge Plate at Henley. After that, I realized that I may be able to hack it as a coxswain. As for the National Team, it was never really in my life's plan - I just want to be the best I can be and to keep improving every day.
In addition to representing USA and Cal Rowing, Julian Venonsky will be another Olympian representing the LGBTQ community.
In an interview on the Five Rings To Rule Them All podcast, Venonsky talked about how he never had to hide his true self.
The closeness of his rowing teams has allowed him to be his true self from day one. “It’s a crucible of really tight-knight relationships,” he says of his Cal crew. “I lived with, I went to school with, I celebrated with, I commiserated with the same people every single day for basically four years straight at Cal. Obviously there are disagreements, but you create this family dynamic of positivity and up-lifting.”
He gave more details about his own story on Athlete Ally, how he realized that he was his own hindrance and decided to take more control of his own story. Fortunately for Julian, he found a very receptive Cal rowing community to support him.
Is this the story I wanted to tell?
I was proud of my first year’s performance, but again, strived to get better. This then brought me to my 2013-2014 season. I began to find my stride in the sport and at Cal, but I was still holding something back. It was May 2014, the beginning of the spring racing season. It was also when I met someone. This was completely new territory for me, reminiscent of just one and a half years prior when I walked into the boathouse for the first time. Those same thoughts came rushing back: excited, scared, stressed, “Is this even worth it?” I can now say, with complete and utter confidence, it was.
I was finally starting to live a life that was true to me. And it was then that I realized as hard as I tried to improve every day, to be the absolute best I could be, I was my own hindrance. That cloud looming overhead—making me afraid to just be myself—completely impeded what I was trying to accomplish. Only when that cloud was lifted was I able to truly flourish and the next half of my college athletic journey was the best time of my life. I wasn’t being what I thought people wanted me to be—I was the one and only author of my own story.
This is the story I wanted to tell.
The only regret I had was not telling it sooner.
Rowing, as a sport, creates extremely tight-knit groups, especially at the collegiate level. You live, train, learn, race, celebrate, and commiserate with the same group of people day in and day out. It is truly a family. And my Cal family, especially my graduating class of 2016, were easily and unequivocally my greatest allies. Nothing changed when I was truly open, out, and even in a relationship. If anything, our bond strengthened, and our family grew.
The following video came from when Julian coxed the 2V8 boat in his sophomore season of 2014 to the national title. The coxswain toss is a rowing tradition after the crew had won a big race.
The same crew then won at the famed Henley Regatta that summer.
Best of luck to Julian and his USA crew in Tokyo!
The men's rowing event at the Tokyo Games is scheduled for July 23-30 on the Sea Forest Waterway.
Date and Time: Sun 25 July 2021, 9:00 - 11:40
Men's Eight Heats
Date and Time: Wed 28 July 2021, 8:30 - 11:40
Men's Eight Repechage
Date and Time: Fri 30 July 2021, 8:45 - 10:55
Men's Eight Final A
Men's Eight Victory Ceremony