Usually I wouldn’t be inclined to declare who my childhood heroes were, but in this case I’ll make an exception. Found this photo on the web today and it brought back memories of striving to improve as a competitive paddler. John Wood (pictured above) raced to an exhilarating silver medal in the Men’s C1 (canoeing) at the Montreal Olympics.
Not only was he racing in the days when competitors from the Soviet bloc were systematically doping, he also lost the 1976 Olympic 500m race by about 5cm. This was a Games where Canada notoriously won multiple silvers and bronzes, but failed to win a single gold.
Wood’s race on a level playing field would have been a gold medal result. It remains one of the heartbreaks of the Canadian Olympic movement. The greatest canoeist of his generation.
At 47, Cain still races at a high level while surrounded by canoeists who are considerably younger.
“Now it’s fun for a different reason. It’s fun because I’m coaching. For me to play a part in helping them reach their goals is really gratifying — although that’s not to diminish the fact that it was really fun to race.”
From the outset of an interview, Larry Cain was fourthcoming about his past.
Cain — who won gold and silver medals in canoeing for Canada at the 1984 Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles — made light of his near-medal performance of four years later during a rare respite Friday at the Canadian sprint canoe-kayak championships in Regina.
“My friends took me out and gave me the top of a beer can with a string through it,” recalled Cain, who was fourth in the C-1 1,000 metres at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul. “They called it an aluminum medal.”
The gold and silver medals — won in the C-1 1,500m and C-1 1,000m, respectively — are displayed on a shelf at Cain’s home in Oakville, Ont., where he coaches with the Burloak Canoe Club. He is happy to discuss his own accomplishments, but becomes especially animated and expansive when talking about medals won and sacrifices made by the canoeists he coaches.
Cain also found time to win a gold medal of his own on Friday. Along with Aaron Rublee, Cory Rublee and Evan Smith, Cain won a men’s C-4 1,000m race and the accompanying John W. Black Trophy (which was first presented in 1905). The Black Trophy is among the most-coveted awards at the nationals, which are in their 111th year.
“It was a lot of fun for me to win it with them,” Cain said of the efforts dedicated toward winning the Black Trophy. “I’m really here as a coach, but it’s great to be able to get out and race. That part of my career is not really my focus anymore.
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