The Canadian men’s eight gave an inspiring silver medal in London today. They could not have rowed a more perfect race. After getting off to a fast start they set a beautiful middle course pace keeping within striking distance of a medal of any color. The Germans looked dominant at the thousand but nothing put off the Canadians who inch by inch took it back from the British and Netherlands. Four years ago this crew didn’t even exist. Jeremiah Brown hadn’t yet picked up an oar, and several of the other men were just emerging from successful college careers. This race shows why Mike Spracklen is the greatest rowing coach in the world. No other coach could take a group of young men, only two who had raced at the Olympic level, and four years later, win a silver medal at the Olympic Games. Mike knows how to take the rawness of talent and give it form to reveal greatness. There is so much that goes into winning an Olympic medal of any color; in the eights event, coaching is paramount.
Mike Spracklen doesn’t have a magic wand that he can wave around and make an Olympic Champion. He has something better. Mike is brilliant at creating an environment that attracts promising athletes and keeps the loyalty of those who have already experienced his winning touch. Once they arrive in Victoria to commit to winning, Mike knows how to get every inch out of every single athlete. It is brilliant because what motivates each athlete is different and Mike understands and leverages this. He says just the right thing to each of his athletes and keeps a calm and discerning eye on every one of them. If you didn’t know Mike well you might not catch the slight ways he kneads and pushes his team so that at last they emerge as a perfect whole. It is subtle, even when it looks overt.
Mike Spracklen possesses the gift of language. He uses words, often unlikely ones, to shift an athletes brains and bodies resulting in positive changes in the rowing stroke. He does this with athletes who have years of bad habits ingrained. It is not just about hands lower or higher, it is about bell notes, and dancing, and “hands always moving, never rushing.” The first time I worked with Mike I felt I was being spoken to by a poet, an artist, a genius. I just let myself go and listened to his words, and his words transformed my stroke. Perhaps he does have a magic wand.
What Mike does, above all, is to show the athletes that he is there. He is committed for every practice, for every devastating loss, for every cold and grey workout in the pouring rain. You can count on him more than you have counted on anybody in your life. Through his leadership, the men learned to count on one another, With such a strong leader at the helm, this men’s eight put it all out there, they went for it every endless day they had together over the past three years. They built trust in one another so today, when coxswain Brian Price called to lift the stroke rate, when he asked to take another inch from the British, these men answered.
These men deserve every bit of credit they will get in the upcoming days. The rowed a gutsy, perfect race and have trained their hands raw to get here. If anyone asks me why the Canadian men’s team is so strong, I don’t have to even pause. Our Canadian men’s team is strong because they have the greatest coach in the world leading them; Mike Spracklen.