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Canada and U.S. are favourites in women’s eight rowing, but don’t count out Romania

Canada's, from left, Lesley Thompson-Willie, Andreanne Morin, Darcy Marquardt, Ashley Brzozowicz, Natalie Mastracci, Lauren Wilkinson, Krista Guloien, Rachelle Viinberg, and Janine Hanson stroke during a women's rowing eight heat in Eton Dorney, near Windsor, England, at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Sunday, July 29, 2012. Canada won the heat.

Armando Franca/AP

If the women's eight rowing final is a two-boat showdown between Canada and the United States, it is news to American head coach Tom Terhaar.

While Terhaar has the utmost respect for his Canadian rivals – "I like the coach. I like the athletes. They're just good people" – he's not about to dismiss the one country that could scuttle both North American entries in Thursday's final.

"Romania is the one I'm always watching out for. What do they have, three Olympic gold medals in a row? [Romania won in 1996, 2000 and 2004.] They've medalled pretty much every Olympics since it was created," Terhaar told reporters.

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"They're the ones I keep an eye out for."

The Canadians beat the Romanians in their heat last Sunday to advance directly to the final event, and looked strong doing so in a time of 6 minutes 13.91 seconds, the fastest run of the day.

The Americans, though, have had their successes against Canada, winning Olympic gold in Beijing four years ago, and going six years in a row without a loss.

The U.S. also won its Olympic heat at the Eton Dorney lake course in a time of 6:14.68. And while that was slower than the pace set by Canada, it was still six seconds ahead of Germany and Great Britain, a considerable feat.

Canadian coxswain Lesley Thompson-Willie, 52, is making her seventh Olympic appearance.

She's been a guiding hand for a team that has power to burn, but limited experience and her role in setting the pace for the rowers could prove critical.

Brian Price did that for the Canadian men's eight and it helped power them to a silver medal Wednesday, behind the powerful Germans.

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