“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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