SPORTS

After a spell in the doldrums, a rejuvenated US men's 8 ready to roll at London Olympics

07/25/2012 02:22 EDT | Updated 09/24/2012 05:12 EDT
WINDSOR, England - For the American men's eight, the dark days of 2011 are a dim and distant memory.

And the reason for that? Simple: Mike Teti.

U.S. Rowing recruited the world-renowned coach from the University of California last October after the country's flagship boat failed to qualify for the London Games through its placing at the world championship in Bled, Slovenia, a month earlier.

Never before had this happened in modern Olympic history and it sent shock waves through the rowing fraternity.

Teti immediately got to work, changing the lineup of the eight and bringing his own inimitable style to training. The boat had one last chance to get to London — by winning the final qualifying regatta in Lucerne, Switzerland, in June — and this time they didn't blow it.

The confidence has suddenly come flooding back.

"We're going to erase what happened last year and remind people we're still around," Brett Newlin, a member of the eight, said after a run-out on Wednesday at Dorney Lake — the Olympic rowing venue.

The eight has always had a high profile in the U.S. — universities and high schools focus sharply on that boat, and the Americans have won more Olympic golds in the event than any other country.

An Olympic regatta without them would have been a strange sight.

"It was a do-or-die situation in Lucerne and we came through," coxswain Zach Vlahos said. "We are happy and we are finetuning everything. No one is coming here to race for anything but gold.

"There's a fine tradition in all of U.S. rowing. (But) the men's eight has been looked at as the U.S.'s big boat, its fastest boat of the regatta and people like to see us."

Newlin believes the reason for the slump in the performance of the eight was due to U.S. Rowing trying to make the smaller boats more competitive.

The top rowers were moved to the four, which is under the supervision of men's head coach Tim McLaren, and the fortunes of the eight dwindled as a result.

With Teti back in the fold — as assistant to McLaren but in charge of the eight — the U.S. has two sweep boats that have chances to make the podium.

"He's a grade 'A' coach," Newlin said. "If anybody can get you to go in an eight, it's Mike.

"He's got a lot of background in rowing and in coaching. You can trust everything he says, wholeheartedly. Do whatever he says and the boat's gonna go fast. That trust is pretty important."

Teti left the national setup after the Beijing Games in 2008, having led U.S. crews to a period of stunning success that included gold for the eight in the 2004 Games in Athens, bronze in Beijing and nine world championships.

"Mike's one of the best coaches in the world," said the Peru-born Giuseppe Lanzone, who is in the bow seat.

Teti was at Dorney Lake on Wednesday, overseeing training in scorching heat for the second day running.

Forty-four of the 58 competing nations were also present, taking advantage of the calm conditions that aren't supposed to last through to the start of the eight-day regatta on Saturday. The men's eight is one of nine events to kick off the meet.

"Since we've been here, it's been sunny and calm for the most part," said Newlin, who will marry his fiancee Ashley in Pennsylvania on Sept. 8. "But we know the weather can get you back over here so we are ready for it."

The eight has been out twice a day for the past week and preparations are going well.

It's all a far cry from the humiliation of Bled and the belief is that Germany, which has dominated the eight since 2009, can be beaten.

"There's been a lot of urgency. It was, 'We have to fix this and we have to fix it now,'" Newlin said. "Everyone has had to be real sharp and real focused all year long, even more so than a normal Olympic year.

"But I think everything's come on really well. We're ready to showcase what we are about."

MORE:cpSports