Canada's loss could be Rowing NZ's gain

IAN ANDERSON
Last updated 05:00 05/10/2012
Mike Spracklen
Reuters

GURU: Former Canadian rowing coach Mike Spracklen has a long history of success.

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The dumping this week of Canada's rowing coach and eights guru Mike Spracklen may draw interest from Rowing New Zealand.

Spracklen didn't have his contract renewed after the London Olympics, where he guided his team to two silver medals, including one for the men's eight.

Rowing NZ is currently in negotiations with head coach Dick Tonks over renewing his contract for the next four years as they plan toward the 2016 Olympics at Rio de Janeiro.

It's possible the organisation and Tonks may come to an agreement which would see Tonks continue to coach a number of Olympic champions and medallists while a new head coach would be enlisted to oversee an expanding elite programme that aims to contest all 14 Olympic classes in Rio.

"The thing I'm discussing with him is how our programme has grown so much in four years," Rowing NZ chief executive Simon Peterson said last week regarding negotiations with Tonks, who coached single sculler Mahe Drysdale and men's pair Hamish Bond and Eric Murray to gold in London, where the New Zealand team claimed three gold and two bronze.

"And that being the head coach that he has been, and coaching four of his own crews, is not necessarily sustainable," Peterson said.

"He's an on-the-water coach, that's his strength. I don't think that the head coach role, across 11, 12 or 13 crews, is really his strength or his desire."

Rowing NZ want to develop their larger sweep oar programmes, including a men's and women's eight, and Spracklen has a superb track record in that department. Between 1990-92, his Canadian men's eight finished second in consecutive world championships and then won Olympic gold in Barcelona. From 2001-12, they won three world titles, one silver, one bronze, won Olympic gold in 2008 at Beijing and silver in London.

Spracklen has had a string of successes since the 1976 Olympics, initially with his native Great Britain, On the Facebook page of the Kiwi men's pair, a post yesterday said "Looks like Rowing NZ should snaffle up Mike Spracklen to develop a successful men's program into Rio 2016! Then NZ may see a men's 8 in the lineup!"

Spracklen is similar to Tonks in the intense work ethic and drive he expects from his charges and has at times been a divisive figure. One other question over his appeal may be his age - Spracklen will turn 79 during the 2016 Games. However, the Great Britain team has been a powerhouse under 66-year-old Jurgen Grobler while Tonks, now 61, has produced Olympic and world champions for more than a decade.

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- Waikato Times

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