In 2003, Randy and Lesley brought their two young boys to Victoria, where he was Head Coach/Director of Swimming for Island Swimming for the next 13 years. Within a few years, Randy moved his club to the top of the national rankings. During that time, he successfully lobbied national sport funding partners and Swimming Canada to establish a recognized national training centre in Victoria. Today, the Swimming Canada High Performance Centre in Victoria is recognized as a premier swim program both nationally and internationally. Randy was a long-term visionary of the sport. His model of world-class sport science and medicine support continues to be the model used across all of Swimming Canada’s programs.
In 2008, Randy’s athlete Ryan Cochrane won the bronze medal at the Beijing Olympics, and this success cemented Randy’s position as National Team Head Coach for the next seven years, until his untimely death in 2015 at just 51 years of age. During this time, his program accounted for seven of 11 medals across the 2012 London Olympics, two Commonwealth Games and three World Championships. Under his mentorship, there was a dramatic improvement in how athletes performed and conducted themselves as professionals. Randy put “an unbelievable amount of time, energy and work into making us better athletes as well as better people,” Ryan says, “and he was successful at supporting decades worth of athletes to this goal.”
Among Randy’s many awards are eight Petro Canada Coaching Excellence Awards, six times Swim BC Coach of the Year, Swimming Canada Coach of the Year for five consecutive years 2008 – 2012, and BC Swim Coaches Association National, Open Water and International Coach of the Year, all in 2013. He received the Governor General’s Award in 2012.
Although his increasing success over the years brought many attractive offers elsewhere, Randy and Lesley were determined to keep their family in Victoria. Randy Bennett’s legacy will live on in the pool at Saanich Commonwealth Place, and he will always be remembered for his contributions to his sport, his community and his country.
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“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.”
SPONSORED BY MANN, MOULSON & CO.