Bates College athletics will soon be represented at a fourth consecutive Olympic Games: former Bobcat Andrew Byrnes, Class of 2005, and his teammates on Canada’s men’s eight will row for a second straight gold medal at the 2012 Games in London.
The 2012 Olympic regatta will be held at Dorney Lake, near Windsor, England. Rowing competition begins July 28, with men’s eights medals to be awarded August 1.
At the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, the Toronto native and resident was the most junior member of Canada’s first medal-winning eight since 1992, and made Canada the first country to win the World Cup Championships before claiming Olympic gold in 36 years. This time around, Byrnes is one of only three holdovers from the 2008 gold-medal eight, including coxswain Brian Price.
Entering his final week of preparation, Byrnes wrote in a recent email: “We have had a large turnover in the crew since 2008, but the goal has always been the same—Olympic gold. Seat-by-seat, this year’s crew is more powerful than the 2008 lineup, so the potential for a repeat performance is definitely there.”
The Canada eight won the bronze medal at the 2011 World Championships in Slovenia, and most recently won the bronze medal at the World Cup in Switzerland in late May.
Repeating as Olympic champion has become a historical rarity, and Byrnes concedes that recent World Cup champion Germany is the favorite to win the gold in London. “Last Olympics, we were the favorites going in. This year, it’s the German 8 that has been dominant, although the gap has been getting smaller. It is sure to be a tight and exciting race.”
Byrnes was a standout on Bates’ men’s rowing team as an undergraduate student in Lewiston, en route to earning a B.S. in physics in 2005. He is one of at least 10 former Bates students who have competed in summer or winter Olympics, and the lone medal-winner. Most recently, Haley Johnson ’06, who attended Bates for two years, was a U.S. biathlete at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver; and Justin Freeman ’98 was a Nordic skier for the U.S. at the 2006 Winter Games in Turin, Italy.
Two other Bates grads nearly realized their Olympic aspirations in recent months: in women’s track and field, Keelin Godsey ’06 finished fifth in the hammer throw at the U.S. Olympic Trials, missing the team by two places. Former Nordic skier and cross country runner Kaitlyn McElroy ’08 competed successfully at the ICF Canoe Sprint World Cups in Poland in the spring (the U.S. team had not earned an Olympic slot, so the team’s goal was a strong international showing).
With partner Maggie Hogan, McElroy finished third in the women’s K-2 500m B Finals at two straight ICF Sprint World Cups.