Joy and sadness on the water

Rowing Canada, headquartered in Victoria, endured a whiplash Thursday at the 2012 London Summer Olympics.

Men's eight rowing silver-medallist Malcolm Howard of Victoria was chosen to greet Prince Harry at Canada House. Howard took off his medal and handed it to the Prince, who looked it over, before they watched on a big screen TV as Canada also rowed to silver in the women's eight.

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The University of Victoria Vikes program can take a bow for helping get Canada to the women's eight podium on Thursday.

Darcy Marquardt would have stayed in softball if not talked into coming out for novice rowing by her roommate at UVic. The 33-year-old native of Richmond joined fellow UVic Vikes graduate Rachelle Viinberg [nee de Jong] in winning the silver medal with the Canadian women's eight behind the gold medallist U.S., which remained unbeaten in six years.

The UVic imprint on the Canadian podium performance was thanks to coach Rick Crawley's 30 years at the helm of the Vikes women's program.

"Softball players aren't known for their fitness. But the first day Darcy [Marquardt] came out to novice rowing practice, I saw she was six feet tall. I kept my fingers crossed," said Crawley. "She worked her way into a ripped, fit athlete."

It was another triumph for Crawley's UVic program.

"I don't think there's been a year [in his three decades at Ring Road] when we haven't had a Vikes rower or Vikes grad on the national team," said Crawley.

"We keep getting good athletes and doing right things with them. Darcy [Marquardt] and Rachelle [Viinberg] were in my UVic pair together and you could see it then that these two girls were going to do well."

And Marquardt and Viinberg went to the London Olympic podium at Eton Dorney as respectful athletes, thanks in large part to Crawley's influence.

"We have a top-notch program but I've told all my rowers, including Darcy and Rachelle, to be humble in victory and gracious in defeat. I like all our athletes to have a good attitude and achieve balance in life."

Marquardt especially needed that balance after tight and heartbreaking fourth-place finishes at the last two Olympics - in the eight at Beijing 2008 with fellow UVic products Romina Stefancic, Sarah Bonikowsky and Buffy Williams and in the pair with two-time UVic female athlete-of-the-year Williams at Athens 2004.

But Rowing Canada will not match the four medals won at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The best that Canadian rowing can now do at the London Games is three medals.

The silver medals in the men's and women's eight were tempered by a stunning collapse in the women's lightweight double Thursday.

The Canadian duo of Lindsay Jennerich and Patricia Obee, both of Victoria and expected to medal in London based on their silver-medal performance at the 2011 world championships, were fourth in their semifinal race and failed to advance to the Olympic final.

"I said to Obee, there's seven minutes of your life that suddenly takes you out of a shot at an Olympic medal . . . it wasn't enough," Jennerich told Postmedia News.

The Elk Lake-based Canadian men's four, also a medal potential boat but more of a longshot that toils on Elk Lake in the long shadow of the men's eight, was fifth in its semifinal and failed to advance to the final.

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