Jeff Ducharme photo/Telegrap-Journal

SJHS alumni Rob Alexander and Mike Craig help NB win bronze medal

by Andrew McGilligan - Sunday, August 23, 2009

This article is courtesy of Telegraph-Journal

Pulling up to the start line in the men's eight plus coxswain final race at the 2009 Canada Games, New Brunswick rower Rob Alexander broke a cardinal rule.

"As much as we're encouraged not to, I took a glance over at the other boats and I saw a bunch of guys just as ready to medal as we were," Alexander said.

The 18-year-old Saint John native then looked at his crew.

"When I looked at them, I knew we wanted it more."

The team got off to a text book start in the medal race, the last of the Games for the rowing competition, and were in the lead.

"That's why we get up every morning at 5 a.m. and practise those starts 100 times," he said. "It was the best start I think we've ever done as a crew," Alexander said.

At the 150-metre mark of the 1,200m race, the crews from British Columbia and Ontario, the eventual gold and silver medalists respectively, began to pour it on, but the N.B. crew stayed with them.

"At the end, we were neck and neck with Quebec for third and we knew it was time to put the hammer down," Alexander said of the duel for bronze.

Less than two hours before, Quebec had edged N.B. for bronze in the men's four race, coxswain Nicole Sanscartier of Rothesay wasn't about it to let it happen twice.

"I was yelling, 'Say no to Quebec,' and 'You can't let them take it twice,'" she said.

With only a few hundred metres to go, Sanscartier looked at teammate Simon Gagnon of Quispamsis and knew there's was no way the crew was going home without a medal.

"I saw Simon take a good look over at (Quebec) and come right back in, focus and drive it in," she said. "I knew right then how bad they wanted it."

Alexander said the crew had no energy left when it crossed the line in third, almost five seconds ahead of Quebec.

"With 400 (metres) left to go, we pulled so hard that it felt like we didn't have another stroke in us at the line, but we had ourselves a shiny bronze medal," he said.

The bronze medal performance was a culmination of three years for Alexander.

"When I started rowing three years ago, I wasn't very good," he said. "Every morning they would tell that if I put in the hours and had the commitment I could be a Canada Games rower someday and now it's a reality.

"Knowing every hour has paid off is amazing. I think we made our province proud and ourselves proud."

Sanscartier said the bronze medal holds more significance because of the connections between teammates.

"We're one of the only teams that's been together every day, twice a day for the entire summer," she said. "So this is really special and something we'll have forever."

The medal is the second of the Games for the rowing team and second for two members of the men's eight crew. Keegan Drummond of Quispamsis and Greg Theriault of Rothesay won a silver medal Thursday in the men's pairs event. Members of the men's eight plus coxswain crew include Mike Craig of Saint John, Robin Overing of Rothesay, Taylor Overing of Rothesay, Cameron Reid of Rothesay, Drummond, Theriault, Alexander, Gagnon and Sanscartier.

Team N.B. raced in three other finals Friday. The men's four, consisting of Drummond, Theriault, Reid and Gagnon finished fourth while the women's four squad of Laura Corscadden of Fredericton, Michelle Roy of Fredericton, Erica Gagnon of Quispamsis and Jennifer Johnston of Saint John finished fifth.

The men's double scull pair of Greg Tomney and Brian Peters, both of Quispamsis, finished sixth in their medal race.

rowing.jpg - Keegan Drummond, Simon Gagnon, Cameron Reid, Greg Theriault, Mike Craig, Taylor Overing, Robin Overing, Rob Alexander and Nicole Sancartier won the bronze in the mens eight plus coxswain at the Canada Summer Games Friday. - Taken by Jeff Ducharme