Mon, September 23, 2013

Canadian men's eight see golden possibilities

By CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency


Team Canada reacts at the finish line of the men's eight repechage at Eton Dorney during the London 2012 Olympic Games July 30, 2012.

LONDON - The big question for Canada’s men’s eight, heading into the race for gold Wednesday morning at the Olympic regatta, is which crew will show up.

Will it be the one that thrashed itself to a last-place finish in its heat Saturday?

Or the one that looked like world beaters in its repechage Monday?

The defending Olympic champions have six Olympic rookies in their boat and blamed some nerves on “rowing like kids” Saturday in their heat, as coxswain Brian Price put it.

Canada looked strong Monday and will be out Wednesday morning to improve on that performance and try and end a winning streak by the Germans that stretches back to 2009.

“The Germans have never really had a ton of pressure put on them by any one crew,” said Canada’s Doug Csima of Oakville. “People have taken stabs at them, and credit to them because they’ve made it so nobody can put pressure on them over the last 250 metres of a race.

“I don’t think anyone’s invincible. Especially when you have an Olympic final once every four years, everyone reacts differently. We’re going to put ourselves in a position so that if they don’t execute 100%, then we’ll be there to take it.”

The Canadians are taking a lot of confidence into Wednesday’s quest for gold after their strong performance in the repechage Monday in which they finished second to Great Britain. The strong finish put them in Lane 5 next to the favoured Germans.

“We’re going to be right there now with the fastest crews. As the race goes on, we’re going to be mowing through crews, feeding off each other, using that energy in a more positive manner to try and push our bow down that course and get across that line first,” said Brockville, Ont., native Conlin McCabe, who said the Canadian eight shook off their nerves Monday.

“We let the atmosphere get to us a little bit too much and tried to have some kind of superhuman performance. We just have to do what we’ve been doing all year on Elk Lake (in Victoria, where the national team trains). Go back to what we’re capable of and not try and have some unrealistic, superhuman race,” he said. “Back to the grind. Just another day at the office, right?”

The Canadians will be able to keep an eye on the Germans, but don’t want to get too much out of their own routine.

“To do the hockey interview line, it’s about executing, right?” said Howard, the Harvard-educated captain. “It’s true. We have to focus on our race plan and what’s important for us. We can’t get fixated on one boat. There’s a race plan and we follow it.”

Thursday, the Canadian women’s eight will try and run down the favoured Americans, who are unbeaten in six years. Canada has been closing the gap, losing the third stage of the 2012 World Cup by .03 of a second, about five centimetres.

After a slow start for Canada at the Olympic regatta, both of Canada’s eights have momentum going into the finals.

Now we will see if it will be enough to propel them to the top of the podium.

MEN'S EIGHT - THE FIELD

Listed by lane

1. The Netherlands: Sixth at the world championships, the 1996 gold medallists qualified by finishing third in the repechage with a time of 5:27.98.

2. Great Britain: The British boat, second at the worlds, has struggled to find consistency. The 2000 Olympic champions did win the repechage, edging out Canada.

3. USA: The Americans failed to make the final of the last world championship, but have shown better form in London. They cruised to win a relatively slow heat with a time of 5:30.72.

4. Germany: The favourites are unbeaten since 2009, but since 1984, only one crew have gone on to win Olympic gold as the reigning world champions. That was Canada at Beijing in 2008.

5. Canada: After a slow start, the defending Olympic champions found their form in the repechage. Canada set a new world’s best time (5:19.35) at the Lucerne regatta this year.

6. Australia: Fourth at the world championships, the Australians are viewed as a darkhorse, but have the speed to surprise here.

WOMEN'S EIGHT - THE FIELD

1. Austria: In a regatta that didn’t include the Americans, they finished fifth at the World Cup event in Munich earlier this year. They’re in tough here.

2. Netherlands: They finished fifth at the 2011 world championships. They had the fourth-fastest heat time here, benefiting from the pace set by Canada.

3. USA: The Americans have dominated this category since 2006 when they won the world championship. They have won gold in both the worlds and Olympics ever since.

4. Canada: Canada had the fastest time in the heats and has been putting unprecedented pressure on the Americans. This should be a great battle.

5. Romania: They used to dominate this event. The Romanians have won a medal in this category every year since 1980 (three gold, three silver and two bronze).

6. Great Britain: The British crew finished third at the world championships last year. It will be interesting to see how much the home crowd can push them along.