Conlin McCabe worries what Canada's dismal performance in men's rowing at the Rio Olympics will mean for the future of the program.
The men's four and quadruple sculls fell far short of expectations in Brazil following Rowing Canada's gamble after the London Games four years ago to shelve the popular and successful eight to focus on smaller boats.
The eight won gold in 1984, 1992 and 2008 before capturing silver in 2012, but the idea was to double the chances at a medal and the subsequent funding from the government-backed Own the Podium by redistributing resources between two crews instead of one.
The plan, under the direction of high performance director Peter Cookson, backfired spectacularly in Rio, with the quad failing to even make the final and winding up eighth on Thursday, while the men's four finished a distant sixth on Friday.
Cookson was not made available for comment Friday, leaving the 25-year-old McCabe to field questions from the media about the way forward.
"We know what's at stake when we're out there," said a sombre McCabe. "We're trying to row our best race for ourselves as well, but we know that rowing in Canada depends on it, also, because that's the way sport in Canada works with Own the Podium.
"We know that we have to get medals as a team if we want to keep getting the funding we've been getting. I guess, yeah, now I am worried to see what happens with Rowing Canada."
Own the Podium has provided the sport's national body with more than $17 million in funding since the last Olympics that saw the program grab two medals. Canada has one so far in Rio — a silver in the women's lightweight double sculls won by Lindsay Jennerich and Patricia Obee on Friday — with an outside shot at another in Saturday's women's eight final.
McCabe, from Brockville, Ont., said despite the embarrassment at the stunningly beautiful Lagoa Stadium nestled under the iconic Christ the Reedemer statue, a knee-jerk reaction back to the old way of doing things would be a mistake.
"It definitely didn't pan out at these Games," he said. "You can look at it right away and go on first take: 'This didn't work.' But what if at the next Games both boats medal? What if at the next Games (after that) Canadian men's rowing gets three medals, four medals? You've got to start the change and you've got to see it through.
"I think we would be silly now to shift all the way back to the eight just because of not having success in the first attempt at the quad and four."