Rowing Canada will regret parting with Spracklen | Sports | CBC Sports

Rowing Canada will regret parting with Spracklen

Posted: Tuesday, October 2, 2012 | 04:07 PM

Back to accessibility links
Coach Mike Spracklen pushed his athletes hard, but he helped them deliver exceptional results (Kevin Light Photography) Coach Mike Spracklen pushed his athletes hard, but he helped them deliver exceptional results (Kevin Light Photography)

Beginning of Story Content

When I returned from the London Olympics, I was hired as the head coach of the Claremont High School Sports Institute for Rowing. This past weekend I coached my first regatta, employing the skills I learned from Mike Spracklen, the man who coached me to three world championships titles with Canada's men's eight boat in 2002, 2003 and 2007, and to Olympic gold in 2008.

The day following my first regatta as a coach, Mike was let go by Rowing Canada.
By Kevin Light, Special to CBC Sports

When I returned from the London Olympics, I was hired as the head coach of the Claremont High School Sports Institute for Rowing. This past weekend I coached my first regatta, employing the skills I learned from Mike Spracklen, the man who coached me to three world championships titles with Canada's men's eight boat in 2002, 2003 and 2007, and to Olympic gold in 2008.

The day following my first regatta as a coach, Mike was let go by Rowing Canada.

At the London Olympics, I was a spare for Mike's men's eight that won a silver medal. Following the race there was joy, as we all thought this result would allow Mike to continue coaching athletes in Canada.

Five weeks following the Olympics, it came out that Rowing Canada had not yet spoken a word to Mike. On Sept. 9 I received a letter from the captain of the 2008 gold-medal crew, Kyle Hamilton, and coxswain Brian Price, asking current and former athletes to write letters showing their support for Mike, his program, his methods and leadership. This was my letter:

"Rowing Canada,

I have been asked by Brian and Kyle to write a letter supporting Mike with the hopes that it will push Rowing Canada to begin communications with him. I find it appalling that I have been asked to write such a letter, and I won't write that letter.

It has hurt me immensely to see how Mike has been treated the past two years by Rowing Canada and I can't believe that after his most recent Olympic medal, Rowing Canada has not initiated communication with him.

I was a part of Rowing Canada before Mike arrived and witnessed how a "B" final program operates. I was not impressed at 19, and I'm not impressed at 33. If Mike is not brought back, these are the men's eight results you should expect:

1999 - 8th
1998 - 8th
1997 - 8th
1996 - 4th
1995 - 9th
1994 - 11th
1993 - No entry.

If he is brought back, these are the men's eight results you should expect:

1990 - 2nd
1991 - 2nd
1992 - Gold
2001 - 6th
2002 - 1st
2003 - 1st
2004 - 5th (men's four Silver)
2005 - 7th
2006 - Men's pair 3rd
2007 - 1st
2008 - Gold
2009 - 2nd
2010 - 7th
2011 - 3rd
2012 - Silver

I would not be surprised if Mike takes the decision away from you and decides to move on and coach elsewhere. There are other countries that have gotten wind of his discontent in Canada and are undoubtedly presenting  him with attractive offers, one of which might be too good to refuse.

It would be my advice for him to coach for a national sport organization that respects him as much as the athletes who have been asked to write these letters do. It would be my hope that country is Canada, but unfortunately unless there are huge changes in the way Mike is treated, I don't believe Rowing Canada deserves to have Mike coaching for them any longer."

Tearful day

On Monday I finished coaching my high school kids at 4 p.m., checked my email and read the news that Mike had been fired by Rowing Canada. I spent the next three hours sitting on the front of his coach boat rocking back and forth on the waves. I didn't know where else to go or what to do. I was in shock. I was on the phone crying with former and current athletes who were calling me for advice. I was asking them for advice.

I was able to get the energy to leave after a conversation with 2004 silver medallist and 2008 gold medallist Jake Wetzel. We talked about how lucky we were to have been coached by Mike. Remembering the good times rather than this bad day.

Mike was quoted Tuesday as saying, "I've got something to offer somebody somewhere. I've got a few more years left in coaching and I want to use them in a place where they want me."

I'm very happy to hear Mike is going to take the opportunity to coach in another country. I feel sorry for the heavyweight male athletes left in Canada, because they won't be given the same opportunity to succeed as I did. I'm not sure Rowing Canada and high-performance director Peter Cookson fully understand the consequences of his actions, because not only have they lost one of the greatest coaches in rowing history, but Canada is now going to have to race against him.

Thank you, Mike and Annie Spracklen, for the lessons you both have taught me over the past 12 years. You leave me with an Olympic gold medal I keep in a drawer, and the ambition and focus to "do what I say I'm going to do" that I will keep in my heart for the rest of my life

Kevin Light is a former member of the Canadian men's eight rowing crew. He won three world titles and the 2008 Olympic gold medal under coach Mike Spracklen.

End of Story Content

Back to accessibility links

Story Social Media

End of Story Social Media

Comments are closed.