July 29, 1996
HAIL THE ROWERS!
By TERRY JONES
LAKE LANIER -- On silver pond?
Four years ago, Banyoles in Spain was golden. But this man-made lake off the Chatahoochie River glittered and glistened for Canada yesterday as Super Saturday turned into Super Duper Sunday at the Olympic Games.
Where there were four gold in Spain, there was only one at Lake Lanier. But where there were five medals at the Barcelona Olympics, there were six here, four silver.
And if you want to be let down and disappointed by that, excuse me.
Canada won 10 medals this wonderful weekend and 60% of them were in rowing. Ten medals on one weekend? Canada won 10 in the entire Seoul Olympics eight years ago. Eleven in the entire Montreal Olympics in 1976.
Rowers, by themselves, did better on Lake Lanier than the entire Canadian Olympic team did at any Games between 1932 and 1984.
With a bronze from Marnie McBean, Kathleen Heddle, Diane O'Grady and Laryssa Biesenthal in rowing fours, a bronze from John Child and Mark Heese in beach volleyball, the shock silver from Brian Walton and bronze by Curt Harnett in cycling, Canada won more medals this day than on any day in our Olympic history other than the boycotted L.A. Games a dozen years ago.
And where there was a little letdown with the silvers that were supposed to be gold from Silken Laumann and Derek Porter 24 hours earlier, the silvers from the men's fours and women's eights had the opposite effect yesterday.
"I think this is Canadian rowing's ultimate success story,'' said coxswain Lesley Thompson, who has been the shouting, screaming passenger on the big boat in five Olympics. "We won gold four years ago. But this is better!''
A double gold medalist four years ago, Jessica Monroe said the same thing about the eight, which also included Calgarians Heather McDermid and Tosha Tsang, along with Maria Maunder, Allison Korn, Emma Robinson, Anna van der Kamp and Teresa Luke.
"I like this medal. Nice color, too. I like the color.
"Four years ago can't compare to this at all,'' she said. "This is totally different. In '92 we were expected to win. This time we were unexpected -- by Rowing Canada; by the press; by everybody.
"It was like a present; it was a surprise. It was a lot more fun. In 1992 it was more like a job.''
The Romanians who won, she said, were unbeatable. But the Canadian girls figured if they poured every ounce into it, they had a chance.
"I feel just ecstatic,'' said Thompson. "We had to just go blind and we did.''
"The most incredible result was the women's eights," said head coach Brian Richardson. "That one is very special."
The other one, the men's lightweight fours, wasn't so shabby either.
I mean, this is the Band-Aid boat!
For Jeff Lay, Dave Boyes, Gavin Hassett and Brian Peaker to end up with a silver at the Olympic Games after the year they've had is a minor miracle.
Hassett broke a bone in his hand in Germany. Peaker was out with a cracked rib. Boyes had back problems all year.
"We had 35 different combinations," said Lay of people in the boat and the seats in which they sat during the season.
"I honestly felt our season was over a couple of times," said coach Dr. Volker Nolte. "I almost had a heart attack hearing about Peaker's accident."
Peaker makes the silver extra amazing.
"He's 37,'' said the coach. "To have the fire to do what he did . . ."
At 1000 metres the Canadians actually led by 0.53. But Denmark reeled them in and the Canadians hung on to beat the Americans for second.
"That's as close to a perfect race as you can get without winning," said Lay. "We were giving it everything we had. In the last 20 strokes of the race, we were pretty much dead."
But they lived to see silver.