Historic boat race a lifelong goal for Island rower Malcolm Howard

Malcolm Howard of Victoria could feel the burning in every muscle during the six blistering minutes it took to cover the two kilometres to win Olympic gold at Beijing 2008 and silver at London 2012 with the Elk Lake-based Canadian men’s rowing eight.

Now try doing that for  approximately 17 straight minutes.

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That is what Howard will do today for 6.8 kilometres on the River Thames from Putney to Mortlake when he takes the stroke seat for the Oxford Blues in the 159th Boat Race against Cambridge.

The Boat Race will be viewed by more than 250,000 people lining the banks of the Thames and millions more on BBC-TV. It has taken on the stuff of sporting lore. To be chosen for the stroke seat — the most important position in an eight-oared boat — for either Oxford or Cambridge is considered a high honour.

Howard, the 29-year-old who attended Brentwood College in Mill Bay and who never lost a race while with the Harvard crew in the NCAA, is planning a career in medicine after rowing. Despite his international rowing success, he said the historic stature of the Boat Race made it a lifelong goal. His distinct academic standing — Howard is studying for a Masters in clinical medicine at Oxford’s Oriel College — and monstrous rowing ability have made that dream possible as today the six-foot-seven Islander will be the lone Canadian in the race among seven Britons, six Americans, two Aussies, a Kiwi and a Czech.

Howard will become only the third Canadian to stroke a crew in the Boat Race, joining fellow-Islander Kip McDaniel of Cobble Hill from the 2006 Cambridge crew and Los Angeles Olympic gold-medallist Mike Evans of Toronto from the Oxford crew in 1984.

Barney Williams of Victoria, 2004 Athens Olympic silver-medallist in the Elk Lake-based Canadian four, won two Boat Race titles as an Oxford business major in 2005 and 2006, the latter as president and captain of the Oxford crew.

Howard’s presence makes Oxford the favourite today over defending-champion Cambridge, which leads the series 81-76 with one tie.

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