If you’re young, tall, strong, oblivious to pain, and have a hankering to visit Brazil four years hence: Rowing Canada wants you!
“You can go on the Rowing Canada website If you want to row, and you think you’re a talented athlete we will actually have people go out and test you,” says Peter Cookson, its high performance director. “We’ll determine if you have the basic characteristics to be a high-performance athlete, and then we’ll get you into a club, get you into a program.” he said.
The team is on a recruitment drive as it sets about rebuilding its national and feeder crews in advance of the Rio 2016 Summer Games. Talent identification coaches will be scouring university and high school sports programs among other potential sources of raw talent in a bid to emulate the potent recruitment tactics of teams like Great Briton, New Zealand and Germany.
Those countries have had talent ID program in place for 10 years and longer, while the Canadian program, just two years in, is still finding its feet, says Cookson. Own the Podium, the funding arm for high performance sport, has committed resources to the search. “By 2020 you’re going to see this Canadian team like the Aussies, the Brits and Kiwis are right now,” he said. “If they’re out there, bring them on, we’re ready for them.” So far they’ve found about a dozen athletes with the potential to be part of the Brazil-bound crews, he said.
His comments, made beside the Olympic rowing course at Eton Dorney, came Friday after a disappointing sixth place finish by David Calder and Scott Frandsen in the Olympic final for the men’s pair. The Canadian Olympic Committee had been looking for the two to repeat their silver medal performance four years ago in Beijing.
Cookson said there will be a thorough review of the program after Canadian rowers delivered two silvers and just three racing finals from seven Canadian boats at the Olympic course. While pleased that the women and men’s priority eight-boat crews rowed to their potential, the smaller boats fell short. Cookson admitted. “You should be disappointed if it doesn’t go according to plan,” he said. In Beijing, Canada’s rowers raced in five finals and won four medals, including a gold for the men’s eight.
“Everything is up for review,” said Cookson. “The way we row, what we’re doing with all our rigging. Our boats, our equipment, our coaches. Everything we do right now we’re going to look at,” he said. “We want to go from a good team to a great team.”
Notably, Mike Spracklen, whose uncompromising coaching methods triggered a review by Rowing Canada last year, guided the men’s eight boat to silver at Eton, and came close to repeating the gold medal performance the eight delivered in Beijing.