A rower's mission for medals
By JIM KERNAGHAN -- London Free Press
Adam Kreek's quest for an Olympic medal surely has to be the most far-reaching of any athlete at the Olympic Games this summer.
The Canadian rower is after two medals in two sports in two countries.
Let's back up a bit. The former Saunders student is part of the race-hardened eights crew, which he frankly admits goes through constant internal strife en route to the final selections, when the rowers meld into the fluid octet that has won the past two world championships.
They're in Europe at the moment for races they'll use to refine their collective style in preparation for the Athens Games. On Sunday, the Canadian crew won the International Wedau-Regatta 2004 in Duisburg, Germany.
On the coming weekend, they'll contest the tougher World Cup race in Munich to get a more accurate fix on their Athens prospects.
It is there, of course, that the years of preparation are supposed to pay off with a gold medal. But after that, Kreek sets off on an odyssey for another medal -- this one in the shot put. Yes, shot put.
It is a medal that is far to the north, buried in Estonia. Actually, he'll be after several medals. It's an intriguing story.
Kreek's grandfather Aleksander was European shot put champion. He was dragooned into the occupying German army and told he was being sent to Poland.
He went AWL, hid out for a couple of weeks, then fled Estonia and eventually wound up in Canada. Before he left, he buried his medals.
Along with his parents, former 1970s Mustangs basketball star Raoul and Gail, Adam searched for them before without success.
"We didn't have the proper metal detectors and the area was a bit larger than we thought," he says. "The detectors weren't specialized. They were more ferrous-based, more for iron than for precious metals. We picked up a lot of nails.
"It's been 60 years and the site is very overgrown. We only spent a couple of days but I plan to go back, chart out the area and spend a week using the proper equipment."
But first things first, and that's a gold medal at the Olympics.
When you're twice world champ, expectations are high and so is the pressure.
"There's definitely a lot of that," Kreek said from Duisberg.
"It's a lot harder to stay at the top than getting to it. Everyone is gunning for you. You're the target."
But that and other changes have made the crew super-competitive. Nearly a 40-per- cent change in the crew is an indication.
"We had quite a few changes in personnel," Kreek said. "Three places are different in the eight over last year. That's why these tests are important to see how the new bodies are fitting into the eights."
The changes were the result of winter-long trials.
"It's a very cutthroat process," he said. "You're concerned all the time about your seat. You're concerned about making the boat as well as making the boat go fast. It's unique in that we're very competitive with each other but then once racing comes around, people come together and a chemistry develops quickly."
The other crew members are Jeff Powell of Winnipeg, Scott Frandsen of Kelowna, B.C., Andrew Hoskins of Edmonton, Chris Jarvis of St. Catharines, Darren Barber of Victoria, B.C., Kevin Light of Sidney, B.C., Joe Stankevicius of Dundas and Brian Price, the cox, from Belleville.
Kreek thinks this is the best crew yet but results next week and in Lucerne, Switzerland, later in June will tell.
When your name is Kreek and you're a rower, the wisecracks are obvious, even though you're an oarsman.
"Yes, up the creek without a paddle," he said with considerable patience. "It always comes up."
You could say Kreek as the mettle for a medal.
Make that medals.