These are the best of times. These are the worst of times for Olympic rowing gold medalist Malcolm Howard.
As a beleaguered and devoted Vancouver Canucks fan, things could not be better right now for Howard, his beloved team having just swept the St. Louis Blues in the first round of the playoffs.
|THE CANADIAN PRESS|
|Malcolm Howard (right): "Damn, I'm almost finished Twilight."|
His own athletic career has hit some big road bumps, though, as the start to his 2010 London Olympic campaign is derailed at the moment by a recurring problem with cracked ribs.
Howard, considered something of a Bobby Oar in rowing circles (or “a genetic freak” as some of his teammates on the golden eight called him), is shooting for the top of the podium in men’s single sculls this time around.
So what’s a boy to do when he’s sidelined from rowing for the moment?
Ride baby, ride.
Howard regularly puts himself through gruelling, solitary four-hour bike rides on the most hilly sections of Victoria he can find. It’s monotonous work and you need something to bide the time.
So Howard uses audio books to keep him company. Asked what he’s been listening to, the genial Harvard grad demurs at first, saying he sticks to “something very light without too much intellect.”
Pressed a bit further, the hulking 6-foot-6 physical specimen admits to recently listening to Twilight, the first book in the vampire romance series hugely popular with teens, but only on the promise it won’t be printed. Eventually, he agrees to come clean.
“Twilight was like 12 hours of audio, that’s just over three rides,” said Howard. “That’s pretty nice. It’s tough because on the bike it can’t be too intelligent. It’s got to be easy flowing.”
Besides, notes Howard, he was mostly motivated by the fact his girlfriend liked it so much. Can’t argue with that.
Howard hopes to be competing before the end of the season in a crew boat and resume his chase for gold in single sculls next season. He’s had this problem before. He cracked his ribs four times (because of the strain of training) leading up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Part of it is because of the intense power that Howard generates. This is a guy who has ripped the cranks off his bike while riding.
“If my bike can’t stand the force and I rip the cranks off my bike, how are my ribs supposed to stand up to it when I’m rowing?” asks Howard.
Good question. One we hope he solves leading to 2012.
PS I’ve got a confession to make. I’ve also read Twilight. I wanted to check it out because my 12-year-old daughter’s a big fan of the series. Have to agree with Malcolm. It’s decent lighthearted fare. For who know the Twilight lingo, my daughter’s a diehard member of Team Jacob. I’m on Team Charlie. My daughter insists I’m the only member.