When he saw rough water on the Pan American Games course at Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas yesterday, Canadian pairs rower Dan Casaca knew he had the right partner for the job.
Chris Jarvis has navigated rough waters of all kinds.
A Type 1 diabetic who must regularly inject himself with insulin, Jarvis was told by a coach he would never be able to make the varsity rowing team because a diabetic's body couldn't withstand the workload. Jarvis went on to become captain of the rowing crew at Northeastern University in Boston, where he graduated as a chemical engineer.
Jarvis also had worked hard to become one of Canada's top Olympic medal prospects with former pairs partner Dave Calder and the world No.ƒ|1-ranked eights boat for Athens in 2004.
Both ended up a disaster. The eights finished fifth and Jarvis and Calder got disqualified in a semi-final for drifting into another lane 150 metres from the finish. It was crushing for them, and turned out to be Calder's last race because he wanted to resume a normal life with his wife and daughter.
Discouraging as it was, Jarvis decided that what happened in Athens had to stay in Athens.
The 26-year-old native of St. Catharines, Ont., soldiered on in the sport. Earlier this year, he didn't know what boat he would be in, but he got paired with 22-year-old Casaca of Toronto and in only one month, they have gelled into a gold-medal winning team for Canada at the Pan American Games.
It was the first gold won here by Canadian male athletes, and one of two medals Canada took in shells yesterday. The women's pair of Zoe Hoskins of Edmonton and Nathalie Maurer of Vancouver brought home a silver in their race, finishing half a deck behind Chile.
"What's exciting for me is to row with someone like Chris, who has been to the Olympics. His experience matters so much. We're going to go on to the world [championships]in Munich and see what happens," said Casaca, who was first attracted to rowing when he saw oarsmen out on the water of Lake Ontario on the way to school. "When I saw the rough water, I was a little concerned. Chris just said, 'Yeah, it's rough water ¡K just keep pushing.' "I'm more laid back, he's more aggressive. Occasionally, we argue, but it works out."
It's a new beginning for Jarvis, who says things have clicked so quickly with Casaca the he wants to push on with him.
While Jarvis took pleasure in beating rival Dan Beery in the U.S. boat yesterday - Beery collected a gold in the men's eight event at Athens while the Canadians faded - he doesn't want to linger on the bad side of his past Olympics.
"One of the lessons for me to learn in Athens was that competition isn't just about the gold medal, but the experiences you put into trying to win it. Sometimes, something you might not have considered can stop you in your tracks," Jarvis said.
"What builds us [as a team]is people pushing for a seat in the boat. It's not just about muscle or size."
He said that with Casaca, each partner has to know how to push the other.
"Dan's young and very motivated. I can trust him to listen to what I say. He's no novice, just a novice with the senior team," Jarvis said.
Casaca said that with Jarvis calling the race, they went through the rough water caused by a tailwind like a pair of veterans.
Jarvis and Casaca won their 2,000-metre run in 6 minutes 34.26 seconds, more than three seconds in from of the U.S. pair of Beery and Patrick O'Dunne.
In the women's pairs event, Chile's Soraya Jadue and Maria Jose Orellana finished in 7:28.94, a mere 1.1 seconds in front of Hoskins and Maurer, who clocked the best time over the last 1,000 metres.
They made up 3.67 seconds on the Chileans over the last kilometre, "but we just started the push too late," Hoskins said.
Hoskins is the sister of Andrew Hoskins, who was in the men's eight crew at Athens, and she is engaged to Kevin Light, who is a member of the current eight that recently defeated the world champion Germans at a World Cup meet in Switzerland.
They give her advice: "ƒ|'More killer,' that's what I get from the boys in my life," she said.
Both Canadian women will row in quad sculls later this week, and the 6-foot-11/2 Hoskins, who grew too big for her old sport of synchronized swimming, is still hoping a seat comes open in the senior eights boat.
"Synchro is still the sport that gave me the Olympic dream. I didn't realize [she'd outgrown the sport]until I went away and hung out with rowers. I seemed to fit in," Hoskins said. "Then, next time I was in a room with synchro swimmers, they seemed to come up to my elbow. I'm a giant."
Canada's lightweight men's double sculls of John Haver of Saskatoon and Andrew Borden of Toronto finished sixth (6:35.70) in their final yesterday. Cuba's Eyder Batista and Yunior Perez won the race in 6:24.19.