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Canadian rowers score silver at the London Olympics: Another “lucky loonie” triumph?

Triumph for the Canadian men's eight, as they rebound to win silver at the Olympics. (Reuters)

Canada's first silver medal of the 2012 Olympics, courtesy of the men's eight rowing team, is a story of triumph after disappointment, of celebration after self doubt.

And, it turns out, a little gold coin may have had a hand in it as well.

The legend of the "lucky loonie" gets another chapter. Revealed by host Dave Randorf on the CTV broadcast just after the men's eight rowing crew stroked its way to a silver, story has it that a loonie was dropped into their lane at some point before the race.

[Related: The brutal side of Olympic rowing]

Perhaps considering something to be a good luck charm might be a bit of a stretch if a gold medal isn't won, but that coin may well have been helpful to a Canadian team that rebounded remarkably after a terrible performance in Saturday's heat, to make its way to the podium when many had counted them out.

Indeed, their Saturday race, in which they finished dead last a full 12 seconds behind the qualifying Germans, even had the team's coach questioning the way Rowing Canada went about preparing for the London Games.

A better performance on Monday relieved a little of the pressure, with a berth in the gold medal race secured. Still, with the women's eight looking sensational in qualifying for their final (they row for gold on Thursday), this young team had some pressure on it.

Six of the crew members are new to it, where the Olympics are concerned, with only Andrew Byrnes and Maclolm Howard (as well as coxswain Brian Price) returning from the group that won gold at the Beijing Olympics in 2008. Gabe Bergen, Jeremiah Brown, Will Crothers, Douglas Csima, Robert Gibson and Conlin McCabe are the newcomers.

[Related: Luck shines on Canada's Ryan Cochrane]

Attempting to make Canada the first nation to repeat as men's eight Olympic gold medallists since 1980, the men fell a little short of that goal, but after the disappointment of last weekend, a silver medal seems a victory.

It is a remarkable turnaround. The 12 second margin between Canada and Germany on Saturday, shrank down to just over a second in the gold medal row, with the Germans clocking in at 5:48.75 and the Canadians just over a second behind, at 5:49.98. At the halfway point, a bronze seemed possible, even probable, but a furious rush by Canada had them blowing by the Brits and closing in on the Germans as they hit the finish line.

Elation, followed. As Byrnes told The Globe And Mail's Allan Maki:

"After all we've been through here, this was special. We knew if we stayed close to the Germans, we could battle with the Brits and Aussies for second. It's a great feeling."

Said Brown: "This is the greatest moment on my life."

Did the Canadians play possum on Saturday, saving themselves so they could rev their engines in the final? Highly, highly unlikely. No team would want to row a second race (repechage) just two days before a final. Judging by the comments of the Canadians after Saturday's disaster, they simply failed to live up to their own expectations. Coxswain Price remarked that he only pulled back his crew in the final 300 metres of that race when he knew they had no shot.

On Wednesday, a strong start and an even stronger finish meant the only thing that bottomed out for the Canadians this time was that fabled loonie, nestled at the bottom of Eton Dorney's lane 5.

 


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