Argonaut Olympian Issue #4
As the 2012 Olympic Games in London were underway Canada had at least four solid chances at podium finishes. Since these games coincided with the 140th anniversary of the Argonaut Rowing Club, we are honouring our past and present Olympians by documenting their achievements and establishing a permanent archive. An Argonaut Olympian is an athlete who has been a competitive member of the club prior to competing at the Olympic games. Until 1972, athletes represented their club as well as their country at the Olympics. In 1976 a National Team system was developed in Canada, thus ending club representation at the games. Other than footnoting this difference, there is no other discrepancy between the two systems for the purpose of this exercise.
The Argonaut Rowing Club has produced more Olympic crews than any other club in North America while that system existed fielding a total of thirteen crews and entries. Many more members have since competed in National Team programs and have been winning gold medals at the Olympics and World Championships with consistency for nearly three decades. This is the third of the series, compiled non-chronologically, of our athletes that have donned the double blue and gone on to compete in the Olympic Games.
Brian Price – 2004, 2008, 2012 Olympics
Games of the XXVIIIth, XXIXth, XXXth Olympiads
Brian Price joined the Argonaut Rowing Club in 1997. Even with his limited success at that point, he exuded confidence, a 'take to prisoners' approach to racing at all of 21 years of age. Always friendly, eager to meet people, loves to talk game he met many of us in his short time representing the Double Blue before the National Team came calling. In his first Olympic games he was coxie of the men's eight in Athens, 2004. Undefeated in two years prior to these games, coach Spracklen, the crew, and Canada, expected nothing less than gold. Making the final, the crew experienced a few technical difficulties and maybe some nerves coming undone and partly due to inexperience, imploded from the pressure finishing a disappointing fifth. Many left the boat; the few that stayed though started training with new resolve, a nothing-to-lose approach that one feels after a tough loss. They also picked up a few new men, notably powerhouse Jake Wetzel, from the silver medal Athens four, the boat that came within .08 seconds of gold losing to Matthew Pinsent's British crew in one of the greatest dog fights in Olympic Rowing history. Brian Price was a constant, so was Mike Spracklen, the legendary British coach and one of the sports most decorated coaches. Canada was again the favourite in the 2008 Olympics however this time the crew was stronger, faster, and so dominant few questioned they would win. In the final they stole the lead 20 strokes into the race and kept open water most of the rest of the way easily winning despite some late charges by Brits and Americans. After 2008, seven of the eight rowing crewmembers left the boat and Brian Price retired to pursue a career in motivational speaking. The itch to compete never left though, and after two years he returned to the boat. Last year Malcolm Howard also rejoined the boat after limited success in the single sculls. The crew beefed up adding the likes of phenom Conlin McCabe to the engine room and suddenly our 5th place men's eight took bronze at last year's FISA World Championships and we were back.
Brian Price Bio
At the age of seven Brian was diagnosed with Leukemia ALL, and was given a new outlook on life at a very young age. It took five years to beat cancer, but the chemotherapy and other drugs that he took left his thyroid only half functioning during a critical growth period and he therefore did not reach his full growth potential. Standing at a mere 5'4” tall and 120lbs, he is the perfect size to be a coxswain. Although the battle to beat cancer was extremely difficult it allowed him to become one of the best coxswains in the world and Brian is adamant that “Without having had cancer I would never have become a 3-time World Champion and Olympic Champion.” Brian has gone from a small town kid to an internationally recognized coxswain. Growing up Brian always had an interest in sports, and started rowing on the Bay of Quinte with the Quinte Rowing Club in 1995. Almost instantly falling in love with the sport, he thrived on the fact that he had so much influence on how fast the boat would go and how hard he could push his athletes. He continued to row from 1997 until 1998 at the Argonaut Rowing Club in Toronto while completing an Honors diploma in Civil Engineering Technology. Upon graduation, Brian decided to follow his passion for rowing instead of pursuing a career in Civil Engineering. He first made the National Team in 1998, and has been the #1 coxswain in Canada since 2001. Brian and his crew began making waves on the international scene in 2002, winning Canada's first World Rowing Championship title in the Men's Eight. They repeated their winning performance in 2003 and were heavy favorites for gold at the 2004 Athens Olympics. For Brian, placing a disappointing 5th at his first Olympics would be one of the biggest learning experiences and challenges since facing cancer as a child. Discouraged and distraught, his plans to move on with life had to be put on hold in order to continue pursuing his dream of Olympic Gold. After two seasons with mixed results, Brian and his crew regained their World Championship title in 2007, and once again had the hopes of their country weighing heavily on them. The Canadian Men's Eight rose to the occasion in Beijing, and were ecstatic to bring home Olympic Gold. Brian and his crewmates had come full circle, rising from defeat four years earlier. The dreams of a young boy and childhood cancer survivor from a small town had come true. Brian now resides in Victoria, BC with his wife Robbi and daughter Brianna. He is currently training with the National Team part-time and pursuing a career in motivational speaking.
Interview with Brian Price
GS Do you remember at what point Brian Price decided to become a coxswain and do you remember the moment you decided to make a career of it?
BP I fell in love with the Olympics when Calgary was the host in 1988. I loved everything about it, the rings, the Calgary logo and especially the fact that it was amateurs performing on an international stage. We didn't win very many medals but it didn't stop me from collecting the pins, hats, newspapers, mugs, glasses, anything I could get my hands on including a really cool ¾ length Official Sponsor Sunice ski jacket!
I had no idea how I would ever become an Olympian but I knew that it would be one of the most amazing things ever! Originally, I wanted to be a downhill skier but growing up in Belleville, Ontario that dream died quickly as the local mountains were mere mole hills.
I was always interested in sport but my size quickly caught up to me as my peers got bigger and I did not. That said, I did excel on the leadership side of things and was very good at making and keeping friends.
When I watched the 1992 Olympic Games from Barcelona on my TV you may recall the Men’s Eight winning a gold medal and I remember seeing a little guy jump up into the arms of a really big guy and I thought “I can do that!”. It took me 16 years until I got my chance but I knew exactly what I was going to do when I crossed that line in first….a big bear hug for my stroke man Kyle Hamilton!
GS When you decided to commit to the National Team, did you dare to dream on the scale of winning a World Championships or the big prize, an Olympic Gold Medal in the Men’s Eight.
BP I kept setting small goals and kept achieving them. Be the best at the Quinte Rowing Club, best at Argo, Make a National Team, compete internationally, win medals etc.
Early on in my rowing career it was always about being the best at whatever level I was at. Often I would come in as the low man on the totem pole and have to work my way up but learning from each outing and each different crew became very valuable for me. Treating rowing as an ongoing learning experience allowed me to continue to grow rather than develop a “know-it-all” attitude. I realized that the Olympic Dream was truly viable when I became part of the Olympic Training camp in 2000. I was ranked #2 in Canada and officially stopped collecting Olympic swag. I no longer wanted to be a fan of the Olympics, I wanted to be an Olympian. Within two years, right after I became a World Champion for the first of three times in 2002, I upped that goal to wanting to be an Olympic Champion.
GS What advice can you give to our members with Olympic aspirations and to our coxies who strive to get their A race out of a crew?
BP Belief in yourself is so important and being nervous for the right reasons is even bigger. I get nervous before most outings in the Eight. The reason is simple, I want so badly to do well and help the boat improve that I get nervous. This is a good reason to be nervous….it shows I care about my performance.
The opposite can be true of nerves as well. Early in my club rowing career I learned that being unprepared is a bad reason to be nervous. Not knowing the workout, the course, where you are going to warmup and do the workout, the lineup for that session or possibly a lack of review of the technical points the crew is currently working on. All of this could have been avoided had I PREPARED properly. Being nervous because you are unprepared is a terrible reason to be nervous as it is totally avoidable. You have only yourself to blame for such feelings.
When I sit at the start line I have to know without a doubt that I am nervous for the right reasons….that I care about my performance personally and also that of my crew. There was nothing more I could have done to better prepare myself or my crew.
GS Describe that Olympic moment for me, the feeling that comes a millisecond after you see that the other 5 boats have been safely put away and the horns blows as you cross the finish line.
BP Coming through 1500m I called the finishing sprint 4 strokes early as I recognized the surge starting to happen from both the British and USA, they could see the light at the end of the tunnel and we wanted to slam the door in their faces. We had a big push 400m out and the entire boat lifted stopping every other crew in their tracks for 5 or 6 strokes and I knew at that moment gold was within our grasp and it would take a monumental comeback in order to beat us.
There was never a sense of panic in the boat even as the crews were slowly inching back on us. The key word there being inching, we were holding our ground. Just before the finish line I called “Five more strokes and you're fucking Olympic champs!”. One of the most enjoyable calls I've ever made. Crossing the finish line the first thing I did was cheer and jump into the arms of Kyle Hamilton just like I had seen Terry Paul do with Derek Porter in 1992. I had always envisioned that moment unfolding and here it was, instinct just took over.
It isn't too often that you can look down a boat and see your buddies with grins and smiles knowing that you just helped achieve a dream of a lifetime.....unreal feeling.
GS You mentioned to me that you had always been fascinated by the of the Argonaut Rowing Club. How does it feel to now be a big part of that history, our newest Olympic gold medalist and one of only a handful that have rowed for our club to possess that honour?
BP When I rowed for the Argonaut club in 1997 I certainly never thought I would become a part of the history within the club.
During my time there I coxed for almost every category at some point, including flyweight women!
It was most certainly an honour to sign the Canadian Oar which hangs on the wall in the bar upstairs. I have never rowed for the awards and prestige…I have done it because it is something that I really feel I am truly good at. Sometimes my poor performance by my standard doesn’t even bother my rowers but I know it was sub par and it must be improved in order for us to achieve the ultimate goal again.
GS Your peers have said what sets you apart is your ability to ‘solicit respect and trust’ from your crew. How has that bond affected your rowing performance as a team?
BP Trust is something which must be earned.
GS How do you feel about our chances for the Men’s Eight in 2012 given so many of your 2008 crew have retired from rowing or moved on to other boats?
BP One of the reasons I decided to make a comeback after 2 years away from the team was the challenge of trying to defend the title and win again with a different and younger group of rowers. I'm 35 now and the average age of the 2012 Eight will likely be 26. When I speak to these guys everything I say must be based on experience, never a guess. Generally I can recall a story for most situations, with outcomes either good or bad.
At the 2011 World Championships, our crew came to the start line with a massive amount of power, some of the best I have ever felt in the coxswain seat, something I definitely respect.
The After (rowing) Life
Brian is married and has two young children. It is widely believed he will retire (for the second time) from the National Team after these Olympics. He may however want to consult Canadian Women's coxie Lesley Thompson-Willie first. She is currently competing in her seventh Olympic games!
- 2000 – World Cup Lucerne - Silver - Men's Coxed Pair
- 2002 – Henley Royal Regatta - Winner - Grand Challenge Cup
- 2002 – World Cup Lucerne - Bronze - Men's Eight
- 2002 – World Rowing Championships - Gold - Men's Eight
- 2003 – Henley Royal Regatta - Winner - Grand Challenge Cup
- 2003 – World Cup Lucerne - Gold - Men's Eight
- 2003 – World Rowing Championships - Gold - Men's Eight
- 2003 – World Rowing Championships - Bronze - Men's Coxed Pair
- 2004 – World Cup Lucerne - Gold - Men's Eight
- 2004 – Athens Olympics - Fifth - Men's Eight
- 2006 - World Rowing Championships - Bronze - Men's Coxed Pair
- 2007 – Henley Royal Regatta - Winner - Grand Challenge Cup
- 2007 – World Cup Lucerne - Gold - Men's Eight
- 2007 – World Rowing Championships - Gold - Men's Eight
- 2007 – World Rowing Championships - Bronze - Men's Coxed Pair
- 2007 – Rowing Canada International Achievement Award
- 2008 – World Cup Lucerne - Gold - Men's Eight
- 2008 – Beijing Olympics - Gold - Men's Eight
- 2008 - Rowing Canada Award of Merit
- 2008 - Belleville - Athlete of the Year
- 2011 - World Rowing Championships - Bronze - Men's Eight
- 2011 - World Rowing Championships - Bronze - Men's Coxed Pair
- 2012 - World Cup Lucerne - Bronze - Men's Eight
- 2012 - London Olympics – Silver - Men's Eight
Medal Count - Rowing Events – Games of the XXIXth Olympiad – Beijing, CHN
| Great Britain
We’ve done this a thousand times before
Boat on gasoline slick, at the catch
And Spracklen’s whisper begins to roar
German’s listen – hear us at their door
Mike smiles, all is well, then lights the match
We’ve done this a thousand times before
Price the barker, calls the burn – hardcore
Canada will put this on their backs
As Spracklen’s whisper becomes a roar
We start fast, every man, every oar
Icing the wake we make - true North track
We’ve done this a thousand times before
Then Crothers puts the hammer to the floor
Byrnes, Howard, McCabe – push engine room pack
When Spracklen’s whisper turns to roar
Now they all know we’ve reached their door
Now Brown, Gibson, Csima, Bergen catch
We’ve done this a thousand times before
Hear Spracklen whisper? We hear him roar.
Grant Sommers 2012