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August 1, 2012

Byrnes '05, Canada surge to claim Olympic silver medal

ETON DORNEY, England -- Bates graduate Andrew Byrnes '05 and the Canadian men's eight overtook Great Britain in the final quarter of the race and claimed the silver medal in Wednesday morning's final.

On his Twitter account, Byrnes posted a photo of his hard-earned medal on his chest, along with the comment, "Silver Medal for Canada!! Tight race. So excited with this result after a shakey start!"

With Byrnes, one of three veterans from Canada's gold-medal eight from 2008 in Beijing, rowing in Seat 6, Canada covered the 2,000-meter course in 5:49.98. Race favorite Germany led the race from start to finish to claim the gold medal in a time of 5:48.75, only 1.23 seconds ahead of Canada. Canada passed the 1,500-meter mark in 4:23.92, 1.48 seconds behind the hosts from Great Britain, but surged past the flagging Brits in the final quarter, crossing the finish line 2.43 seconds ahead of them. The United States charged from sixth place to almost overtaking Great Britain in the final stage, settling for fourth place in 5:51.48. Netherlands finished fifth in 5:51.72, with Australia sixth in 5:51.87.

In the Canadians' third and by far most important race of the London Games, Byrnes wrote in an email, "we were more controlled and counted on having a strong pace through the whole race. It was an exciting moment when we could smell the finish and started clawing back at the Germans and British."

Byrnes, one of at least 10 former Bates students to compete as an Olympian, was already Bates' lone medal-winner, thanks to his gold medal from Beijing.

Byrnes' teammates on the boat include two fellow vets from 2008 in Malcolm Howard and coxswain Brian Price. His remaining six crewmates are Will Crothers, Robert Gibson, Conlin McCabe, Jeremiah Brown, Douglas Csima and Gabe Bergen.

Canada got off to a rocky start at these Olympics, finishing fourth among four boats in the preliminary heats of July 28. "What hurt us in the heat was our desire to thow everything we had at the Germans in the first part of the race. As a result, we scrambled," said Byrnes.

Canada made up for it in Monday's repechage, claiming one of six spots in Wednesday morning’s A Final by placing second. Great Britain won the repechage, taking a three-quarter-length lead over Canada and holding off the defending Olympic champions, as well as Netherlands and Australia.

"The rep was a great chance to put right what we did wrong in the heat. A confidence builder and nerve calmer," wrote Byrnes.

Though he was the third most veteran member of the Canadian crew, as well as the second tallest, the 6-foot-7 Byrnes isn't ruling out a third Olympic foray for the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro. "I can't say for sure [whether I'll row again for Canada]," he wrote. "This is my sixth consecutive year racing the 8 for Canada. I'm going to explore another career path for a while (use my Bates physics degree?). But I could be back for Rio 2016!"

The former Bobcat standout rower also made sure to tip his cap to the latest accomplishments of the Bates men's and women's rowing teams. "I'd like to congratulate Bates' men's and women's rowing teams on two of their best finishes ever! I've been following some impressive results," he wrote.

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