Fri, September 20, 2013

Back to the drawing board for Canadian rowing

Eight wasn't enough as Canada fails to live up to medal expectations

By CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency


David Calder and Scott Frandsen of Canada react after finishing sixth in the Men's Pair Final event during the London Olympics at Eton Dorney on Friday, Aug. 3, 2012. (Reuters/Mark Blinch)


ETON DORNEY, ENGLAND - Eight was great.

The rest?

Not so much.

That pretty much summed up Canada’s rowing adventure on Lake Dorney at the Olympic regatta this week.

The men’s and women’s eight delivered silver medals, meeting expectations in the face of the overwhelming favourites from Germany and the USA, respectively, in each of their categories.

But the men’s pair, silver medallists in Beijing, finished a disappointing last in their final Friday and the women’s lightweight double sculls, who had won silver at the world championships, didn’t make the final after finishing fourth in their semifinal.

The expectation was for five or six of Canada’s seven boats here to make finals.

Three made it.

“We thought we could get five or six finals. It didn’t pan out,” said Peter Cookson, Rowing Canada’s Director of High Performance.

“There are a whole bunch of various factors I need to really look at a lot closer. I don’t know all the reasons yet. Sometimes it’s just psychological. Sometimes you get into an environment that doesn’t quite work for you.

Disappointing is one way to sum up some of the week’s performances.

“That’s fair to say. All the athletes had expectations they could be finalists. It’s not wrong to be disappointed. You should be disappointed if it doesn’t go according to plan. We need to reflect on it and see how we can change that going into the next quadrennial,” said Cookson.

Coach Mike Spracklen, who, among others, coached the men’s eight here and the women’s light double sculls, has criticized the philosophy of splitting the national team into smaller groups for the purposes of training, the result of a reorganization two years ago.

Certainly that philosophy needs to be revisited and it will be.

“Everything is up for review,” said Cookson. “We want to go from a team that’s good to great and to do that, we’ve got to really look very closely at everything we’re doing.”

Even if the rowers, as a group, didn’t live up to expectations, the fact is they have delivered the only two silver medals for Canada in these Games so far with that first gold proving to be elusive.

The women’s lighweight double sculls had a tumultuous couple of months leading into the Games after Tracy Cameron retired, leaving Lindsay Jennerich to team up with Patricia Obee.

That was hardly the kind of preparation Rowing Canada had in mind.

“It never is when you change crewmates a couple of months before an Olympic Games,” said Cookson. “That kind of threw a wrench into where we were going and trying to accomplish.”

Rowing Canada’s talent identification program has been in place for a couple of years, said Cookson, but it likely won’t have an impact until the athletes with potential can be brought into the stream and developed.

“You see what GB (Great Britain) is doing. You see what Australia has done. You’re seeing what New Zealand is doing and what Germany is doing, they are all the programs that has had talent ID going for 10 years or 12 years. We started ours two years ago,” said Cookson.

“It’s going to take time to get that base of athletes to make our success really sustainable like they can do right now. You’re going to see by 2020, you’re going to see this Canadian team be like the Aussies, the Brits and the Kiwis are right now.”

chris.stevenson@sunmedia.ca

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