Canada's national eight-oar men's rowing team's practice on Burnaby Lake on Thursday, July 5 had a special connection for bowsman Gabe Bergen.
Bergen's father also rowed on the lake for the University of B.C. before representing Canada in the 1976 Montreal Olympics.
The idea of following in his father's footsteps on his own pathway to the Games was the incentive that coaxed the 30-year-old Bergen south from his home in 100 Mile House.
"I wanted to give it a try after seeing (my father) went to the Olympics," said Bergen after a morning practice on the lake last week which underwent a $22 million dredging with the cooperation of a City of Burnaby and provincial government partnership. "I went to UVic because that was where the national team trained, to see if I could get there (the Olympics) as well."
With the London Games less than two weeks away, Bergen will get his first shot at going for Olympic gold.
"That was my plan," Bergen said of his reasons for attending the University of Victoria.
Although never touching a rowing oar while living in the South Cariboo, it took him just two years of competitive rowing before Bergen reached his first world championship in the men's eights, helping Canada finish ninth in Great Britain in 2006.
"A lot of guys push for eights. It's an exciting event. I wanted to be in the eights. I wanted to get in there," Bergen said.
But for the next three years, Bergen's two-oared sculling skills found him in the pairs or quad shells representing Canada.
Bergen won his only gold medal in the pairs in Linz, Austria at the 2008 worlds.
After continuing to push for a spot in the long shell, Bergen went on to earn a silver in the eights at the worlds in Poland in 2009 and a bronze last year in Slovenia.
As the defending Olympic champion, the men's eights have to be considered a favourite to repeat. The team set a new world record of 5: 19.35 at a World Cup event in May, shaving a half second off the old mark in the 2,000 metres, set by the United States at the 2004 Olympics in Athens.
Bergen will be pulling the oar in the bow of the men's eight in London, a position that requires a lively oar, said Bergen.
"You want to make it feel light for the other guys in the middle. You want the blade of your oar just slightly ahead of the others to get them excited," he said. "The stroke guy (No. 8) is setting the rhythm and we're all supporting him."
Canada's biggest threat will likely come from Germany, which has turned in the most consistent finishes over the past three years.
The host United Kingdom is also strong, while the U.S. and Australia cannot be counted out, Bergen added. Poland, too, is a team not to be taken lightly.
"We know the speed is there, we have to do it on the day," Bergen said.
"I know how it feels to be in an A final, but this is the Olympics. I just think it's the one time everyone is watching. It's the big stage. Everyone wants to be there. It's the one time everyone ramps up for. It's pretty exciting."
The gold medal final of the men's eights at the London Games will be run on Aug. 1.