US brings pride back to men’s 8

Mike Teti is finally managing to get some performances out of

the United States men’s eight.

Now his job at the London Olympics is to make them start

enjoying themselves.

”They are kind of boring,” Teti said. ”They aren’t super

fiery guys – they are very methodical, systematic. They are all

business. That makes me a bit nervous.”

Teti isn’t being mean. He’s just describing, very

matter-of-factly, how seriously this bunch of guys are taking

getting their country’s top boat back to its former heights.

They continued their upward progress on Saturday, on the opening

day of the Olympic regatta at Dorney Lake.

With only one boat advancing from their heat, the U.S.

convincingly beat crews from Australia, Poland and Ukraine to

progress to Wednesday’s final. It meant they avoided a

tough-looking repechage race that will also include Olympic

champion Canada and host nation Britain.

The victory was the biggest so far for a boat that has been

reformed under the stewardship of Teti, who was hired by U.S.

Rowing in October to qualify the Americans for the London

Games.

A month earlier, they had failed to qualify directly for the

Olympics for the first time ever at the world championships. In

May, they won a final qualifying regatta to sneak into the Olympic

regatta but it was too close a call for a nation who values its

men’s eight more than any other rowing crew.

”It’s significant to us in America,” Teti said. ”Most of the

high-school kids row in the eight, and at university the

championships are in the eight.

”It’s like ice hockey in Canada, you’re going to have a good

ice hockey team. In the U.S., we should have a good eight. There is

a lot of tradition, a lot of pride.”

Teti has brought that pride back to the boat and it showed

Saturday in a graceful display that demonstrated how much they have

come on over the past few months.

The U.S. powered out from the start, taking an early

stranglehold on the race, and looked smooth all the way to

line.

Poland and Australia aren’t walkovers, either. They had just

finished 1-2 in a World Cup regatta in Munich, and were coming into

the Olympics in confident mood.

”For a lot of them, it’s the first race they’ve won at a world

championship or Olympics,” Teti said. ”To win the heat gives them

a bit of confidence.

”It’s like bamboo – it grows a little bit one year, the next

year, the year after, then it grows eight feet. So I think we have

been beneficiary of the last three years. They have gotten better

over the races, getting more seasoned.”

Whether that’s enough to get the better of Germany in the final

is another thing entirely.

The Germans are unbeaten in three years and beat the time of the

U.S. by five seconds in the second heat.

”If they want to get on podium, they are going to have to go

faster,” Teti said. ”We are going to hope so. They are going to

really have to go to another level.”

The U.S. last won the eight in 2004, after a wait of 40

years.

”The crew from 2004 is a huge inspiration,” Brett Newlin said.

”I mean, (the stroke of that crew) Bryan Volpenhein is here, he’s

the coach of the lightweight men’s four. It would be great if we

could follow in their footsteps.”