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04/11 2012

Memorable Races from my Rowing Career: 1999 Vienna World Cup, M2-

In the summer of 1999 Morgan Crooks and I were named to the pair for Canada after narrowly winning the Canadian Speed Order Regatta.  Rowing Canada stated that the winner of Speed Orders would be permitted to choose which boat they raced, the 2- or the 8+.  We chose the 2-.

With his hands full preparing Derek Porter (M1X) and the M8+, Deithelm Maxrath (aka Max), the men’s coach at the time, brought Tony Carr on staff to prepare Morgan and myself domestically.  Tony had coached both Morgan and myself in high school and was keen and able to help prepare us for racing.  We only had 2 weeks to figure things out before we headed overseas to race, and Tony’s departing words to us were: “Never doubt yourselves and learn everything you can each step of the way.”

First stop: Vienna.

Morgan and I took heed of Tony’s advice.  We knew enough to keep our heads down – but it was hard knowing that the field was pretty deep.  Entries in the event included the 1996 Olympic Silver Medalists David Weightman and Robert Scott (AUS) and 1997 World Champions Jean-Christophe Rolland and Michel Andrieux (FRA) to name a few.

What else can a young crew do but get stuck in?  And that’s what we did.  We had a rough start to the regatta in the heat and had to race through the reps.  Max was pissed at us for not ceasing the opportunity better – but as the eternal optimist, he refocused us on the rep.  We justified having to race the rep as an opportunity to ‘learn more about ourselves’ as Tony had told us.  We won our rep, and I remember Volker Nolte cheering for us as we walked our boat from the dock to the boat area: “Keep it rolling, Big Boys!”  Max was all smiles too, but he knew we had a big job ahead of us to get through the semis.

The draw for the semifinals came out and we had an unlucky draw – that said, any draw would have felt unlucky for us at that point.  We had to race France, Croatia (World Cup 1 winners) and the USA – who had already beaten us in the heat.  We managed to get the lead off the line and hold it for the first 250 meters…then the field rowed through us!  It wasn’t until the 1000 meter mark that we start to work our way through the field again.  With 500 meters to go we were in third, with 250 we were in second and at the line we got through the Americans by 0.01 seconds – the closet race I’ve ever been in.  The overall finishing order, CAN, USA and Slovenia in third ahead of France and Croatia was a surprise to everyone.

Lining up in a middle lane for the final felt strange – it was a first for me.  We had the USA on one side and GBR on the other.  Slovenia, Greece and Australia were the other boats in the final.  Morgan and I got off the line fast again – leading to the 250.  Almost expecting it, the field rowed through us again.  From there to the 500 we dropped back to 5th, only staying in front of Greece.  We stayed in 5th through the 1000 meter mark.  I was in stroke seat and I remember Morgan saying: “If we’re going to make a move we have to go now!”

In the next 10 stokes we moved past the Slovenians.  We felt super charged – like nothing could stop us!  By 1250 we were in third ahead of the Australians.  Morgan’s calls kept coming and we kept pushing.  With 500 to go we slipped past the Brits and were head-to-head with the USA.  It felt like we were tumbling towards the finish line – a bit like running down hill.

We kept pushing though.  Our last 500 meters were simple: 15/15, 10/10/10, each step trying to go harder!  With 250 left we were moving faster than the Americans and I knew we were going to win.  At the finish line we had beaten Adam Holland and Cyrus Beasley (USA) by just over a second with Stephen Williams and Simon Dennis (GBR) another 0.7 seconds behind them.

That was the first time I had won a Senior World Cup race – and it felt good.  I remember sitting at a street-side cafe later that afternoon with Derek Porter, Marnie McBean, Emma Robinson & Theresa Luke (W2- winners) and Morgan.  Marnie jokingly welcomed us into ‘the winner’s circle’.  At 21 I felt like I had entered a new phase of my rowing career – for the first time I felt I was in control of my destiny.

If you had asked me then if I’d still be chasing after my dream 13 years later I would have laughed!



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