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PROFILE: Derek Porter
Porter aims for third Olympic medal

TORONTO -- (CP) Derek Porter is looking for a boat that will help make him seven seconds faster.

That's how much he trailed New Zealander Rob Waddell in the single sculls final at the 1999 world rowing championships in St. Catharines, Ont., last August.

Waddell won gold and Porter took bronze home to Victoria, where he dedicated himself to closing the gap with long workouts on Elk Lake.

"I'm sculling better now than I ever have in the seven years I've been at it," the fastest chiropractor on water said in an interview on Wednesday.

Porter flies to Germany tonight so a boat manufacturer can make final alterations to a shell it will ship to Canada for him. He'll go on to Switzerland to visit another boatmaker. He won't decide until summer which of several boats, including a Canadian-made one, he'll use in the Olympics.

Porter will race for the first time this year in Seville, Spain, Feb. 27-28. He returns to Victoria on March 1 to resume training with coach Pat Newman.

The make of his boat will be important, but it will be less vital than Porter's sculling technique when he reaches Sydney, Australia, for the 2000 Olympics beginning Sept. 15.

"I'm trying to find a few seconds here and a few seconds there over about five technical areas," he explains. "That's where most of my gains are going to be made -- changing technique.

"I know I can row a lot better technically. You've got to be totally precise with your blade entry and your leg drive and co-ordinate everything to be efficient.

"'I've never liked my sculling, aesthetically. So we're making quite a few changes. If I can make up a few extra inches every stroke, that will be a couple lengths by the end of a race. That's five seconds right there."

Porter spends hour after hour on Elk Lake. Eagles soar overhead. Loons paddle out of the way when his boat cuts towards them through the water.

"It's like a nature sanctuary out there," says the six-foot-five Olympic champion.

Porter was the stroke of the Canadian eight that won Olympic gold in Barcelona in 1992. He turned to sculling, in which two oars are used rather than one as in sweep-oar crew events, and stunned the rowing world by winning gold at the 1993 global championships.

He then enrolled in a four-year chiropractic college course in Toronto, winning Olympic silver in Atlanta in 1996 along the way.

At 32, he's in his athletic prime. He works three afternoons a week in the offices of Mike Murray, a national rowing team chiropractor, and intends to open his own practice after returning from Sydney.

This is his last Olympic single sculls fling, so he's finding it easy to pour all of his concentration into preparing for Sydney.

"I'm training hard and I'm more focused on the task than ever before," he says. "Eight months -- that's all I have to think about."

"It's not a lot of time. I have no problem motivating myself right now."

As for Waddell, Porter doesn't dodge the magnitude of the challenge.

"He's going to be difficult to beat," Porter admits. "Seven seconds seems like a lot to make up, but I don't think it's insurmountable by any stretch.

"I'm doing a lot of things technically and physically that will bridge that gap pretty easily. I didn't have a great race in St. Catharines so I don't really view it as a seven-second difference.

He had the world's fastest time ever, so I don't think he could have gone too much faster on the day. And I'm pretty sure I could have gone a few seconds faster if I'd had a good race.

"I think I can close the gap and get a lot closer to him. But it's going to be tough. There's no doubt about that."
Derek Porter in the news
Canadians sadly finish fourth
Porter's best still not good enough
Canadians resent being called losers
Porter in pictures
Sydney frustration
4th place
With Tara Moss
Single sculls heat
Sydney training
A new uniform
Yes!
Hugging Theresa Luke
Relaxing after a win
Showing off a medal
After a win
Winning silver