Gut-wrenching. There is no other way to describe what Peter McClelland is feeling these days.
Rowing to London.
King City and Aurora resident Peter McClelland is in the water in Switzerland as Team Canada gets fine tuned for the Summer Olympics in July in England.
But amid all the smiling faces of athletes living their Olympic dreams, there are several times that many wonder what might have been or what they might have done differently.
McClelland was pumped at the prospect of being part of the Canadian men’s fours rowing squad pulling hard for the London Olympic Games to start July 27.
The Aurora and King City resident had been through the heartbreak of being scratched from the team last year, when he suffered a broken rib two days before a World Cup event. The injury also sidelined McClelland for the world championships.
So, when the Canadian team placed seventh at a World Cup event this spring in Lucerne, Switzerland, also serving as a final assessment for the team bound for London, he felt confident he’d be aboard for the Olympics.
Talk about sinking a guy’s boat.
McClelland was informed by Rowing Canada coaches in mid-June of the decision to send him ashore in favour of another rower. The team was unveiled officially last week and the Canadian Olympic Committee announces its lineup bound for Londontown today.
“It’s tough. I feel like the past 10 years I’ve been building to this and was so close and then, two weeks before, it is taken away,” said the 29-year-old over the telephone from Erbe, Italy, where the Canadian national team is based for training prior to the London Games.
Except that in the case of McClelland and others who fell short in their bids, he’ll be headed to Bulgaria to compete in the non-Olympics world championships in coxed pairs.
It’s hardly a consolation prize he is enthusiastic about, at least for the moment. McClelland will continue to train with the Olympic-bound teams and four spares, just in case an injury pokes a hole in one of the other crew members’ dreams.
“If anything went wrong with the fours I’d be in line as the guy to go,” said McClelland, who won silver and bronze medals in eights and pairs, respectively, last year at the Pan Am Games in Mexico. “It’s a coaches decision. They made the decision. I don’t agree with it because I think I could contribute to the fours and demonstrated that I could contribute. At the end of the day, it was up to the coaches and I have to live with it.”
He wonders if he can hang around another four years to take a last shot at Olympic glory in 2016. Good question. No ready answer.
“There’s been lots of discussion with the coaches and high-performance staff and they say I can be a productive member of the team in four years,” McClelland said. “But, at this point, I’m not sure. I’ll take the fall off and see how I’m feeling, apply for some jobs. Right now, I’m thinking I could take a year off. One day it’s, ‘No way.’ The next it’s like I have unfinished business.”
It is not easy going from being the guy in the boat to the guy on the dock.
No longer part of the core four pulling together as a team toward the medal podium. Yet, the wound is still fresh enough that it hurts to be around the guys, including Will Dean, who took his seat.
“You are so close that, yes, there are some uncomfortable moments,” he said. “That’s one of the toughest parts. I was always one of the guys in the grey zone so I was always aware that if we didn’t do well in Lucerne, I could be the one to be replaced.”
McClelland considered the appeal process, but ultimately did not pursue that avenue, not wanting to be the guy who, no pun intended, rocked the boat.
“Ultimately, I didn’t want to go that route,” he said. “The process is available, but I don’t want to disrupt the team. They’re all my friends and to do so would take away from them and their training after they’ve realized their Olympic dream.”
McClelland knows all too well things can happen swiftly in his sport, including illness or a freak injury, between now and the start of the Olympics.
“All I can do is be ready to step in if anything did happen to one of the guys,” McClelland said. “I was an example of that last summer.”