Canadian men's eight reloads for worlds with Howard
Rower Malcolm Howard believes the current men's eight has more explosive power than the crew that won Olympic gold in Beijing.
As a member of that champion crew three years ago, you'd reckon Howard would be in a position to know.
"The sheer raw power is there right now," said Howard in advance of the world championships Aug. 28 to Sept. 4 in Bled, Slovenia. "It's just a matter of harnessing it and getting it in the right direction."
Howard will be playing an important role in trying to do that, having been moved from the men's single sculls back to the eight after the Lucerne regatta in July. He was fifth there, while the men's eight was fourth.
Howard had not yet proven himself to be a serious contender for an Olympic medal in the single and the feeling among the Rowing Canada hierarcy was they he was much more valuable to them in the eight. It was well known in rowing circles that's where men's head coach Mike Spracklen wanted him.
"It's hard to make up for seven years of experience in the single – that's what those guys have that I'm racing," said Howard. "It's definitely disappointing, it would have been nice to keep at it but it's definitely understandable when the overall picture's about winning medals. You can't get emotional about these types of decisions."
Howard was named captain of the men's eight shortly after joining them. A big Canucks fan (don't hold it against him), it was suggested to him that he wouldn't want to be a captain in the Roberto Luongo mould.
"Nothing against Luongo, but I'd more like to mould myself after someone like Joe Sakic," said Howard. "It's more about leading by example and when something has to be said I say it.
"When you've been to that level, you have a very good idea of what it is, what needs to get done. I feel like part of my role is setting that bar. I mean Mike always does it, but it's different when an athlete in the boat is always willing to push that bar."
Howard likes the talent in the boat, singling out a couple of newcomers since Beijing in Conlin McCabe, 20, from Brockville, who is the strongest guy in North American on the erg (stationary rowing machine), and Jerry Brown, a former football player at McMaster.
"The boat's very powerful, it just needs that almost that little bit of confidence to keep at it and keep attacking it and know they have it in themselves," he said.
Howard was seen by his teammates as being something of a freak of nature and was expected to be a force in the single, but it is a tough transition. His struggles show the impressiveness of Derek Porter's feat of going from Olympic champion in the eight in 1992 to world champion in the single the next year. Porter won silver in the single at the '96 Olympics.
(photo by Reuters)