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.''