Ochal talks U.S. four, local nine

LONDON – Glenn Ochal has a lot on his mind. He is in his first Olympic rowing competition. He and his teammates in the U.S. four have raced twice this week, earning a spot in Saturday’s gold-medal race.

His parents, Lee and JoAnne, are in London, checking out the sights and catching a night at the swimming venue. Oh, and the Phillies traded away Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino while he was here.

“It’s good,” Ochal, a Roman Catholic High grad and huge Philadelphia sports fan, said after Thursday’s semifinal. “Keep the pitching and build the bats. They need some youthful bats. Nate Schierholtz gives them a little bit of life.”

Ochal is getting a little taste of what it’s like for his Phillies and his Eagles. The venue at Eton Dorney features enormous bleachers along both sides of the manmade lake. Unlike some of the events, the stands have been full and the crowd is raucous.

“They’re packed every day,” Ochal said. “It’s the biggest race in terms of people watching that I’ve ever been part of. So it’s pretty cool. You come in there, the last 300 meters, it’s pretty pumped.”

Ochal started rowing at Roman and continued at Princeton University. “I liked it,” he said. “I like competing and I like racing.”

He has paddled his way to the sport’s highest level, continuing a long Philadelphia rowing tradition. With one more strong performance, his crew can leave here with medals.

“It has been a great experience,” Ochal said. “We put together a couple good races on Sunday and today to get into the final. That’s been our goal, because you can’t win if you don’t get into the final.”