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Canadian Rowing Coach Uses Poetry to Spur on His Crew

By Harriet Staff

Check this out, from an article in Regina’s Leader-Post:

At the team meeting the night before, the Canadian men’s eights talked over the race plan (chiefly, not to try to match the Germans out of the gate but rather wait and attack), what to focus on, and all the other technical/mechanical gewgaws of rowing.

Then Mike Spracklen, their beloved and beleaguered 74-year-old coach, did what he did four years earlier, at Beijing, when the team’s predecessor won gold.

Three of the veterans from that team are at the core of this one, and they remembered.

Spracklen read a poem. When he’s feeling under the gun, under stress, he writes poetry – there’s a reason rowing is considered a gentleman’s sport, and the reason is that those it draws close tend to be both literate and cerebral – and given the year Spracklen has had, he may have written as many lines as the Iliad.

The poems “are sometimes quite funny,” Malcolm Howard, the team captain, said afterward. “And sometimes quite amazing.”

This time, Howard said, he’d written a long one. “He talks about our training all year, in poetry, and then he says some amazing words about each person –

“If you guys are very lucky,” he told the reporters around him, “maybe you’ll get some lines from him.”

Spracklen would recite only the last couple, and said he couldn’t remember word for word what he’d read.

“But what I said was, ‘I have one last request, and I’ve never asked anyone before: Win the race for me.'”

They didn’t quite pull that off, but in an absolute monster of a battle – there were only 3.12 seconds separating first and sixth place – that had the crowd of 25,000 at Dorney Lake roaring, the Canadians raced with such intelligence, maturity and grit they won silver.

Full article here.


Posted in Poetry News on Monday, August 6th, 2012 by Harriet Staff.