Mon, September 23, 2013

Men's eight advance to rowing final

Men's four move on to semifinal

By CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency


Members of the Canadian Men's Eight rowing team train for the London Olympics in Burnaby, British Columbia July 5, 2012. Team members are (L-R): Brian Price, Will Crothers, Jeremiah Brown, Andrew Byrnes, Malcolm Howard, Conlin McCabe, Robert Gibson, Doug Csima and Gabe Bergen. (Andy Clark/REUTERS)


ETON DORNEY, ENGLAND - The way Conlin McCabe saw it, the Canadian men’s eight was the equivalent of a drowning man in the Olympic rowing basin Saturday.

They more than kept their heads above water Monday.

It was a different crew, the crew which came into these Olympic Games with high hopes for a medal, sweeping to a second place finish Monday in their repechage and powering into Wednesday’s final.

The difference in mood in the boat was profound Monday and with the result, the men’s eight has created a lot of momentum for itself going into the final.

What a difference from Saturday’s nervous, uncharacteristic performance in which they finished last in their heat.

The defending gold medallists from Beijing four years ago, the men’s eight has six new sweepers in the boat and nerves were a factor in Saturday’s performance, one described as “a stinker,” by high performance director Peter Cookson.

“We’re trying to get ahold of the water with each stroke, right? A good crew, a relaxed crew is going to place that blade and move the boat through the water nice. It’s all going to be fluid. The key is to be relaxed to get that,” said McCabe, of Brockville, ON.

“When you’re carrying too much tension, you’re gripping and ripping and suddenly you’re just throwing water, panicking in a pool, splashing and not going anywhere, you can imagine.

“When you’re relaxed and just grabbing hold of the water, pressing it through, it becomes a lot more beautiful and easy.”

It looked beautiful and easy for the eight Monday. They finished second in the repechage in five minutes, 27.41 seconds, just behind Great Britain (5:26.85). Also qualifying were the Netherlands and Australia, joining heat winners USA and Germany — unbeaten since Beijing — in the final.

Canadian coxswain Brian Price admitted Saturday’s debacle briefly conjured up memories of the eight’s disappointing performance in Athens in 2004. But a lot of introspection and conversation about what went wrong set things up for Monday’s performance.

“We were rowing like eight people, not like a crew,” said Price. “We didn’t have a good heat at all. That was very bad, probably about as bad as it could be. To be able, a day later, come back and put out a performance like that, to be able to be right there on the British heels, was a really good showing and showed the young guys were are capable of a top performance.”

“It’s a new crew. We had a big turnover from the Beijing eight to this Olympics. It’s a younger group and I think it was a little bit of nerves,” said Byrnes, one of the holdovers from Beijing, along with Price and Malcolm Howard. “I think that got to us a little bit (Saturday). We’re pretty happy we able to set that right today.”

The eight is rounded out by Gabriel Bergen (100 Mile House, BC) in the bow seat, Douglas Csima (Oakville), Rob Gibson (Kingston, ON), Jeremiah Brown (Cobourg, ON) and Will Crothers (Kingston, ON).

After a slow start to the Olympic regatta, things are looking up for the Canadian rowers of which perhaps as many as four medals were expected.

The women’s eight turned the tide with their strong performance Sunday. The men’s four went straight through to their semifinal Monday.

Now the men’s eight seem to be back in form and ready to challenge the Germans.

“We feel,” said McCabe, “like we’re contenders again.”

Yup, a different feeling.

A good feeling.

chris.stevenson@sunmedia.ca

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