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Tue, August 10, 2004
Rowers, divers to create waves
Respective teams expected to lead Canada's medal haul
By TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

ATHENS -- Three. That's the magic number for Canada at the XXVII Olympic Games.

That's the number of gold medals our nation won at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games.

That's the number of golds that two sports - diving and rowing - are convinced they can deliver together, or maybe even each.

"I have to admit I've thought about it. But I'm not predicting it. A lot of alignment with all the stars and moons in place would have to happen. But it could happen," said diving coach Mitch Geller of his team delivering the same total of golds here as the entire team did in Sydney.

"If we won three medals of various colours we'd leave here saying we hadn't achieved our potential."

NO GUARANTEES

Rowing won't offer any guarantee either, but Captain Canada comes close.

"We'd like to think we could win three gold all by ourselves," said Andrew Hoskins, captain of the men's eights.

Forget all the other sports. The success or failure of the Canadian Olympic Team here will be determined by rowing and diving. Whatever gold Perdita Felicien, Simon Whitfield or anybody else might manufacture will be a bonus.

Hoskins's crew is the closest thing Canada has to a lock to win gold at these Games.

"We haven't lost in two years. Not a heat. Not a final. We dominate," said Hoskins of the rowing eights crew, which arrived for their first training session here yesterday.

Hoskins points out that Canada won two gold and two silver at their last World Cup.

"Three golds is a reasonable number," is how the Edmonton rower phrases the goal for gold.

Diving is a different deal. Alex Despatie, Blythe Hartley and Emile Heymans have had the same sort of success as the rowers leading up to these Olympics. But diving is much more of a spin-the-bottle sport.

"Rowing is a little more predictable than diving," is how head Geller put it yesterday.

"In rowing they pretty much know where they fit with the rest of the world and usually run true to form. The results shouldn't vary too much. In diving, if somebody sneezes their event is over."

That said ...

"In the three-metre, with Alex, anything is possible," said Geller. "He can win the event. We'd be disappointed if he didn't medal. He's that good. In the tower, Alex is walking on water. He's the best he's ever been," he said of the world champion.

Despatie says he can't wait to dive in.

"People expect a lot from our team. We've known that for a while. I'm excited for it to start. The way I look at it is that I'm priviliged to be in that position.

"That's my own fault, of course," laughed the Montreal marvel.

"From my point of view, I'm going to do what I love to do and do my best. I'm not thinking medals. I'm trying to make this just another event. It's whoever can put it together in his head. The thing, to me, is not to try to do any astronaut stuff out there."

Canada is in seven events and Geller says the team has medal potential in all seven. But he says there isn't the same expectations in the synchronized diving events, which open the Olympics Saturday with Edmonton-born Hartley and Greenfields Park, Que., native Heymans in the three-metre event and Despatie and Montreal's Phillipe Comtois in the 10-metre.

"If we won a medal in either, we'd say 'fantastic,' " is how Geller put it.

In the women's tower, where Heymans is the world champion and Hartley the Pan-Am gold medal winner, Geller says gold isn't likely to be there for them.

"The Chinese have it locked up," he said. "But with Emile, we'd be disappointed if she's not in the medals."

In the women's three-metre, Hartley has a shot.

"She's been in the medals at almost all the international grand prix events," Geller said.

The coach says Canada may have a shooting star here, too.

Hartley says it's been a great ride to get here but now that the Olympics are about to begin, it's hard to describe the feeling.

"I'm very excited but I'm also very nervous. You wait to get to this moment and then you think, 'Wait, maybe I'm not ready. This has come too fast.' "

There's nothing wrong with pressure and expectations, she says.

TRY NOT TO THINK ABOUT IT

"It's a compliment. We've produced good results the last two years. There are high expectations and we hope to meet them. But you try not to think of medals and results. You just want to do what you've done for the last two years.

"The thing is that diving is a different sport. Anything can happen on a given day. It's scary in a way. Everything that's happened before the Olympics doesn't count. Everyone starts at zero."

It starts at zero. But the goal is for diving and rowing to get Canada to three gold.




Does Canada's low-medal haul in Athens bother you?
Yes, it depresses me
No, it's just sports
I'm disappointed, but not worried
We'll get 'em in Turin
Don't care

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