Canada coxswain Brian Price beat childhood leukemia and found a calling

Brian Price's bio bears repeating no matter how many times you have heard it.

A crew of burly rowers are responsible for powering the Canadian men's eight, but if the men's eight ends up pulling itself out of the bog that is taking success for granted, people may be happiest for their coxswain. After all, a cox is a fixer, stabilizer, conscience, ego manager — and has to win over athletes who can usually use her/him for their bench presses. In other words, the cox is worth the weight Om Yun Choi can lift in gold. Especially when people know how the 36-year-old Price, who took a hiatus from rowing after Canada captured gold in 2008, converted childhood trauma to a craft.

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From Dave Feschuk:

His personal story has always been inspiring. Diagnosed with leukemia as a seven-year-old, he spent most of five years beating the disease. And though the cancer stunted his growth — he topped out at 5-foot-4 and 121 pounds — it also opened the door to his current trade. Coxswains are small and light by necessity. But Price has come to London in search of the irreplaceable feeling of the hunt while carrying heavyweight aspirations.'

"I don't have any intention to come to the Olympics to have a good time," Price said. "The Olympics isn't for me about participation. It's about winning medals. I'm one of the luckiest guys around, because this is my third Olympics, my third time around, and I've got a legit shot at a gold medal. There aren't a lot of Olympians who can tell you they had, first, a legit shot at a medal, and then second, a legit shot at a gold medal. There aren't a lot of people who've been in that situation." (Toronto Star)

Great motives do not make for medals, but that one is tough to beat. Canada, of course, has reached Wednesday's final via the repechange. Winning a medal after requiring the second-chance race is not unheard of in rowing, given that the margins between the best crews is often razer-thin. Suffice to say, though, the Belleville, Ont.-born Price will have to tap deeply into his motivational playbook and his experience to help the young Canadian crew find the optimal zone.

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To sum up, do not believe for a second the coxswain has an easy job. People who only see rowing during the Olympics might get the sense of the coxswain's functions during a race — steering the boat, being the eyes and ears of the crew. They don't see the behind-the-scenes quarterbacking from a man who is far too small.

"Imagine sitting at a table with highly motivated, driven individuals. Imagine all the ideas being thrown around with each person feeling their thought is the most important. Essentially, my job is to take those thoughts and move the group forward in a cohesive and compelling manner, so that each person has 100 per cent buy-in to what I say.

"It takes time to build up that kind of respect amongst your peers. Sometimes I need to lead, but often I need to listen and implement the dominant values or technical points which emerge — usually coming from the coach. My ability in the boat to be concise, decisive, confident and motivating will determine whether or not I am successful in my role." (Belleville Intelligencer, July 24)

Given the increasing size and girth of the average North American male, athletically inclined 5-foot-4, 121-pound men are a scarce quality. On top of that, when one takes in what Price overcame to be an Olympian, he's a beacon for people who have been dealt bad breaks with their health.

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.

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