BRADENTON -- Canadian rower David Calder has competed all over the world. The 33-year-old has been to three Summer Olympics and is going to participate in his fourth -- and last -- this summer in London.
So when the 2008 Olympic silver medalist says hes pleased with the rowing facilities and accommodations in Manatee and Sarasota counties, its high praise.
For the past week, the Canadian mens Olympic team has been training at both the Fort Hamer Park in Manatee and Nathan Benderson Park in Sarasota. The team is staying at Pirate City, the spring training camp for the Pittsburgh Pirates, and will return to Canada from Tampa International Airport on Friday.
As lead coach, Im always looking for scenery thats different for the guys and something positive, said former gold medalist Terry Paul, the senior national mens coach.
The Canadian womens national row team has trained before in the area, but this year marks the mens first trip. Paul was intrigued after reading advertisements in rowing magazines and hearing positive feedback from members of the organizations development team, who trained in the area two months ago.
Were here for some warm-weather training, he said.
Fort Hamer provides long-range sessions for the team, while Benderson offers sprint and short-distance rowing. At Fort Hamer, the team rowed to the U.S. 41 bridge and back.
The long runs were really great for us, Calder said. It was pretty intense.
Of the 12 rowers training in the area, Paul said eight will compete in London. Calder, under the guidance of Paul, won the 2008 silver medal in Beijing in the mens coxless pair category with teammate Scott Frandsen.
Where we train, we can train all year, but it doesnt mean its nice all year, Calder said. So our primary objective coming here was that we can get some miles under our belt in the warm weather and have that one element of training pressure off our bodies. Its easier to recover when its warmer weather.
Calder said the weather conditions this past week are similar to what rowers will face in London.
The rowing course in London has a traditional, slight-to-medium crosswind -- and the wind that was coming off Interstate 75 was pretty close to what we expect to be racing in, he said Tuesday.
Calder believes both facilities are becoming well-known rowing destination, and hes confident his team will frequent the area again.
Sarasota has the potential to be an incredible international course, he said.
At Fort Hamer, local high school and club rowers got to fraternize with the Olympians -- moments Calder enjoys.
Thats one of the big reasons why, when I was a kid, I wanted to become an Olympian, he said. Rowing at the same club as 10 Olympic medalists is pretty motivational.
In basketball, kids dont have the opportunity to play on the same court as Steve Nash, and so having the ability to tear down the barriers and have conversations with the best of the best is really inspiring, Calder added. Our group tries to be as approachable as we can be, so an easy conversation can happen between kids who are at the beginning of their careers and trying to look to where they want to go.
Nick Williams, East Manatee reporter, can be reached at 941-748-0411, ext. 7049. Tweet: @_1NickWilliams