July 18, 1996
SILKEN ON A MISSION//ROWER AIMS TO BETTER HER BARCELONA BRONZE
By TERRY JONES
At The Olympics
ATLANTA -- Canada's First Lady of the Olympics has been treated like a golden girl ever since her incredible triumph in Barcelona.
But Silken Laumann didn't win gold four years ago. She won bronze.
She finally spit it out here yesterday, dealt with it up front.
"I have something left to do,'' she said.
She wants to stand on top of the podium. She wants to see the Canadian flag raised for her.
"I was very satisfied with Barcelona," she said. "I couldn't have been more satisfied. It was the best I could do. But obviously what's left to do is win a gold medal.''
If she's going to do it, she has to have a better day than she had here yesterday.
Silken Laumann is one fast woman by sea. But not by land.
"I left at 1 p.m. It's now 4:48,'' she said as she slumped behind the microphone, almost an hour late for her own press conference. "There were about 100 people already running when the bus showed up. I got caught up in the middle of a bunch of them from Italy.''
It was gridlock here in Olympic city yesterday and Laumann got caught in it.
"It'll take a little while to work out the kinks,'' she said kindly.
Despite the kind of organizational frustrations that have left many media members frazzled even before these Games begin, it was a cool, collected, almost mellow Canadian rower who sat up there and talked so calmly about these Olympics.
Laumann's face is one of the most famous in the nation. Is there anybody in Canada who isn't aware of the rowing accident that left her injured, requiring a skin graft and five operations within 10 days? Is there a single Canadian who didn't follow her fierce comeback, the very definition of desire, that captured the imagination and the hearts of people not just in our northern nation but throughout the planet?
Her story became a made-for-TV movie. But the ending hasn't been written. It will be written here.
She was asked the question. Would the Silken Laumann at these Olympics be able to beat the Silken Laumann of the last Olympics, and if so, by how much?
"The consistency I've had in workouts is better than I've ever had,'' is how she chose to answer it.
"And this course is incredible. The safety factor is high, so it's stress-free for me,'' added the 32-year-old singles sculler who still has her nightmares about the horror on the lake that day of training in Germany.
It hasn't exactly been smooth rowing since. Those aren't the only scars she carries.
There was the Pam-Am Games when she took the extra-strength Benadryl with the banned substance instead of the legal regular strength and was stripped of that gold.
"That's something I'm not keen to talk about," she said. "It has its emotional scars. It took me all summer to feel like myself again.''
She also was asked to comment on a story that suggested she's resented by her teammates because she travelled to San Diego to train with her coach, Mike Sparklen, who now is a coach with the American team.
"I am very much a part of this team and I am an incredible supporter of all individuals on the team,'' she said evenly, as several of her teammates sat beside her, showing no tell-tale emotions on their faces.
Canadian head coach Brian Richardson pointed out that Laumann is a singles sculler and if she leaves camp to train elsewhere, it doesn't affect the team.
"In fact, I think it's great the U.S. is prepared to pay a coach to help one of our athletes,'' Richardson said with a laugh.
Most Canadians probably think these are Laumann's second Olympics. Or third. They're her fourth.
"In my first, I had no experience,'' she said of the Iron Curtain-boycotted Los Angeles Olympics, in which she won a bronze with her sister in double sculls.
"In '88 it was disappointing and a struggle.'' She was seventh in the same event. "In '92, I could just do the best I could. I hung in there.
"This Olympics, it definitely has been a struggle to come back and perform. I've had lots of hurdles in the last four years. But what I went through made me come back into contact with who I rowed for and what I loved about it.
"This year has been just a great year. It has been lots of fun. I've regained a lot of joy.''