August 18, 2008 / 4:31 AM / 9 years ago

Canada trained through snow and sleet for gold

BEIJING (Reuters) - The Canadian men’s eight rowers, who won in Beijing after memorably failing four years ago, trained through the rain, sleet and snow to make sure they did not have to suffer defeat again.

<p>Members from Canada's men's eight rowing team celebrate their gold medal win at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, August 17, 2008. REUTERS/Shaun Best</p>

Canada entered the Olympic Games four years ago as hot favorites and double world champions, but saw their hopes evaporate as they dropped off the pace, eventually finishing fifth.

On Sunday they took a half-length lead and held on to it until the finish. Britain won the silver and the United States the bronze.

”We trained so hard,“ said Adam Kreek, who also raced in the eight in Athens. ”For six hours a day, every day, we put everything into this.

”You don’t win a race on race day, you win it eight months, a year, two years in advance.

”We trained in the snow, in the hail. We rowed when our (boat) slides and bodies were frozen, when we couldn’t see ahead of us because of the snow flurries, and there was cracked ice on the lake.

“Every single weather condition, nothing stopped us.”

Canada’s British coach Mike Spracklen, who is known for his extreme levels of training, said he was immensely proud of his crew after suffering the pain of Athens four years ago.

<p>Members from Canada's men's eight rowing team celebrate their gold medal win at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, August 17, 2008. REUTERS/Shaun Best</p>

The 70-year-old has said many of the crew returned to rowing to make up for their defeat in 2004.

”Athens was a bitter disappointment,“ he told a news conference. ”When you go into a race with such expectations and don’t fulfill those it is very disappointing.

“But when you win an Olympic medal, especially a blue-ribbon Olympic medal, it is just so very exciting and I‘m very proud.”

His crew returned the praise.

“I’ve got a lot of love for these men,” said Kreek. “We’ve become a band of brothers and Mike is our grandfather.”

Kyle Hamilton, described as the natural leader of the crew, had openly described the Athens final as the worst day of his life. But he was more careful in describing his victory.

“I can’t say it’s the best day of my life because I’ve gotten married between Athens and Beijing and I‘m not stupid,” he said.

“But this is a close second.”

Editing by Steve Ginsburg

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