“Legendary” is not an adjective to be used lightly, but it is highly appropriate when speaking of international rowing coach and former Rowing Canada Head Coach, Mike Spracklen.
Born and raised in England, Mike’s first major success was in coaching the Great Britain double scull to silver in the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games. Between 1977 and 1989, he went on to produce medal-winning rowers for Great Britain at six World Championships, the 1984 Olympics (their first gold medal since 1948), and the 1988 Olympics. His services to British rowing were recognized with the Order of the British Empire in 1989.
Following the 1989 Worlds, Rowing Canada brought Mike to Canada and the training centre at Victoria’s Elk Lake where, over the next four years, he worked with rowers such as Silken Laumann and Derek Porter. Under Mike’s tutelage, Canada won one gold and three silver medals through the 1990 and 1991 World Championships. Following Silken’s horrific injury just prior to the 1992 Olympics, Mike worked with her for 10 weeks, resulting in her bronze medal to go with the gold for the Canadian men’s eight. In 1993, Mike received the Meritorious Service Cross from the Canadian government.
After four years in Victoria, Mike was contracted by the USA, where he coached the American men’s eight to medals at the 1993, 94 and 95 Worlds. Both Silken and Derek moved to the US to continue training under Mike. After stroking the Canadian men’s eight to gold in 1992, Derek turned to single sculling and the following year became world champion. Under Mike’s program, both Derek and Silken won silver for Canada at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games.
After the 1996 Olympics, Mike returned to Great Britain as the Women’s National Coach. His rowers took four medals over the 1997 and 1998 Worlds, and he was voted 1998 UK and England Coach of the Year by the National Coaching Foundation. At the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, his women’s quadruple sculls earned the first Olympic medal ever for the British women, a silver.
Following this success, Mike returned to Elk Lake as the Men’s National Coach, a position he continued to hold through the 2012 London Olympics. During his second tenure in Victoria, Mike’s crews accumulated 12 World and Olympic medals, including the famous Beijing gold for the men’s eight. He continued to gather honours: 2002 International Rowing Federation Coach of the Year, 2004 Spirit of Sport Foundation Coach of the Year, and the 2007 Petro-Canada Coaching Excellence Award.
In late 2012, Mike again returned to England. He accepted an offer from the Russian Rowing Federation to coach their men’s eight although, unfortunately, they had undergone insufficient testing outside Russia and so did not compete in Rio de Janiero. After 40 years of coaching at Olympic level and his 79th birthday, Mike has retired but it is doubtful that his coaching record will ever be equaled. Yes, indeed … the definition of “legendary” might just be “Mike Spracklen.”
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The spark which led Kent Manderville to a National Hockey League career began in Redwater, Alberta, but the flame was lit by a next-door neighbour in Victoria.
Kent was born on April 12, 1971, in Edmonton but his hockey started in Redwater, population 1,450. Growing up without a father, Kent, his mother Irene, sister Dara and brother Brad moved to Victoria when he was nine. He attended Gordon Head Elementary and Cedar Hill Junior High schools and played baseball, soccer and volleyball and participated in track and field as well as cross-country. He was on the 1983 District 2 champion Gordon Head baseball team that advanced to the Little League provincial championship.
Kent was lucky to have great minor-hockey coaches at Oak Bay, Saanich and the Racquet Club of Victoria. But his biggest break was, as a 10-year-old, to have Dr. Howie Wenger, a decorated exercise physiologist, as a Paramount Place neighbour and hockey mentor. Then, as a 12-year-old, Kent watched the Soviet Union win hockey gold at the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo and thus began his dream of playing in the NHL.
Hockey took Kent to Wilcox, Saskatchewan and the prestigious Athol Murray College of Notre Dame, then Cornell University where he was the Eastern College Athletic Conference Rookie-of-the-Year in his first year there and where he met his wife, Kim.
In 1989, Kent was drafted 24th overall by Calgary Flames. The number one pick that year was Mats Sundin by the Quebec Nordiques and, interestingly, Kent was drafted ahead of no. 53 Nicklas Lidstrom and no. 74 Sergei Fedorov by Detroit Red Wings and no. 113 Pavel Bure by the Vancouver Canucks.
Before playing a NHL game, Kent was part of the 1990 and 1991 gold-medal Canadian teams at the World Junior championships. Then, on January 2, 1992, Kent was part of a 10-player trade between the Calgary Flames and the Toronto Maple Leafs.
That was a month before the Winter Olympics in Albertville, where Kent was part of the Canadian team which won silver, losing the gold-medal game to a Unified Team of newly-formed nations from the former Soviet Union, which had dissolved weeks before the Games began on February 8.
Soon after Albertville, Kent began his NHL career with the Maple Leafs and over a 12-season, 713-game career, he scored 40 goals and had 70 assists for 110 points. He played for Toronto, Edmonton, Hartford, Carolina, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh before leaving in 2003 and played in Sweden and Finland, retiring in 2007.
After hockey, Kent completed his Cornell business degree. Transitioning to a career in wealth management, he is working towards the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation and is focused on helping current professional athletes plan their financial affairs. In addition, he has given back to hockey by coaching minor hockey for a decade and is active with Hockey Helps the Homeless charity tournaments.
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