As a junior coach

As a junior coach

Rutledge helps Russian rowing reach new heights

Cranbrook native takes pride in helping others find success; set on assisting Russian women to 2016 Olympic Games

In 2008, Ben Rutledge won an Olympic gold medal as a member of the Canadian men’s eight-plus rowing squad.

Shortly after that, he retired and took to coaching the sport at the University of British Columbia.

Now seven years after his Olympic victory, the 35-year-old Cranbrook native is in pursuit of further Olympic greatness, this time as a junior coach with the Russian women’s eight-plus rowing team.

What makes the Russian rowing revolution so significant is that after finishing second last at the 2014 European Rowing Championships, the team turned around to claim gold at the 2015 European Rowing Championships in Poznan, Poland, a year after Rutledge’s arrival.

With the 2016 Summer Olympic Games right around the corner, the Russian crew is intent on making its way to the podium in Rio De Janiero a year from now.

“The daily focus and effort during the winter months is where you make your biggest gains,” Rutledge wrote via email, giving credit to the team’s dedication to training. “Last summer at the world championships, they were able to improve very quickly in a short period of time in our environment and that has helped them stay focused and motivated through the long winter.”

As a junior coach, Rutledge isn’t the only man responsible for helping with the rejuvenation of the Russian women’s rowing program. In fact, he characterizes himself as merely a cog in the much bigger machine that is the Russian Rowing Federation.

While still competing in Canada, Rutledge was guided by Mike Spracklen — a veteran coach of nine Summer Olympic Games. According to Rutledge, it is the former International Rowing Federation coach of the year who is largely responsible for Russia’s sharpened edge on the global rowing scene.

Spracklen took over the Russian men’s rowing program in the fall of 2014, helping the eight-plus team to a silver-medal performance at the 2014 European Rowing Championships.

Having seen the turnaround of the men’s team, the Russian Rowing Federation set Spracklen to work his magic with the women’s eight-plus squad. But Spracklen wasn’t about to do it on his own. He insisted on having someone who understood his system.

Enter Rutledge.

“I had been staying in contact with Mike and had told him if he ever needed any help I’d be keen to be involved,” Rutledge wrote.

“I had some friends looking out for me and had run into the leadership of the Russian federation, letting them know I could be available. So they contacted me and I went over last summer on a trial basis.”

According to Rutledge, the program was well organized and well funded with motivated athletes upon his arrival, but unfortunately, they had yet to achieve much success internationally.

“[Spracklen] had spent the past six months developing a work ethic with the men’s team,” Rutledge wrote. “When I came in to coach the women, they had good role models to follow.”

It didn’t take long for Spracklen’s system and Rutledge’s guidance to have an impact on the women’s eight-plus team, which beat out the likes of the Netherlands, Romania, Germany, Great Britain and Belarus to claim gold at the 2015 European Rowing Championships on May 31.

With European gold on the mantle, the Russian women’s eight-plus team, along with Rutledge, now have their sights set on the podium at the 2015 World Rowing Championships, set for Aug. 30 to Sept. 6 in Aiguebelette, France.

Ultimately, the team is aiming to qualify for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio De Janiero, Brazil. A top-five finish at the 2015 World Championships will achieve that.

“We need to be in the medal hunt this year [at the World Championships] if we expect to have a shot at one next year [in Brazil],” Rutledge wrote.

“Over time, I have come to learn that I get the most satisfaction out of helping people and seeing them succeed.”

Having already claimed his own Olympic gold medal in competition, the Canadian rowing great from the little mountain town of Cranbrook is intent on guiding his hard-working Russian team to their own Olympic glory in 2016.

The Russian women’s eight team features Julia Kalinovskaya (bow), Yulia Inozemtseva (seat two), Elena Lebedeva (seat three), Anastasia Tkhanova (seat four), Anastasia Karabelshchikova (seat five), Aleksandra Fedorova (seat six), Julia Popova (seat seven), Alevtina Savkina (stroke) and Ksenia Volkova (coxswain).

The team trains in Valday, Russia, located approximately 400 kilometres northwest of Moscow on Lake Valdayskoye.

Rutledge attended Mount Baker Secondary School while growing up in Cranbrook, before moving on to earn a Bachelor of Commerce degree at the University of British Columbia.

Just Posted

The City of Cranbrook and the Ktunaxa Nation raised the flag of the Ktunaxa Nation at the arches entrance into the city's downtown core during a ceremony on Monday, June 21. Photo courtesy City of Cranbrook.
Ktunaxa Nation flag raised at downtown arches entrance

The Ktunaxa Nation flag was raised at the Cranbrook arches — the… Continue reading

Kimberley Search and Rescue were able to quickly respond to a call for service and transport an injured mountain biker to East Kootenay Regional Hospital over the weekend. Kimberley SAR file photo.
Kimberley Search and Rescue respond to injured mountain biker on Bootleg Mountain

Kimberley Search and Rescue responded to a call for service this past… Continue reading

FILE – Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, takes part in an event on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous Peoples Day must be a ‘call to action’, says Assembly of First Nations chief

Discovery of children at Kamloops residential school site must lead to change, Perry Bellegarde says

City of Cranbrook, Ktunaxa Nation to host flag ceremony on National Indigenous Peoples Day. (Corey Bullock file)
City of Cranbrook, Ktunaxa Nation hosting flag ceremony on National Indigenous Peoples Day

A temporary road closure and speed limit reduction will be in effect during the ceremony

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Over 5K jabbed at Interior Health mobile COVID-19 vaccine clinics

The clinics have made stops in more than 40 communities since launching last week

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
VIDEO: Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

COVID-19 daily cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day moving average to June 17, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections drop to 90 on Sunday, 45 Monday

Pandemic spread dwindles as 77% of adults receive vaccine

By protesting uninvited in First Nations’ territories, conservationists are acting in a neocolonial or paternalistic manner, says Huu-ay-aht Chief Robert Dennis. Photo by Heather Thomson
A closer look: do Vancouver Island First Nations support the war in the woods?

First Nations/environmentalist old growth alliance uneasy, if it exists at all

A blood drive in support of 1-year-old Rielynn Gormley of Agassiz is scheduled for Monday, June 28 at Tzeachten First Nation Community Hall in Chilliwack. Rielynn lives with type 3 von Willebrand disease, which makes it difficult for her to stop bleeding. (Screenshot/Canadian Blood Services)
Upcoming blood drive in honour of Fraser Valley toddler with rare blood condition

The Gormley family has organized a blood drive in Chilliwack on June 28

One Reconciliation Pole and two Welcome Figures were unveiled during a ceremony in honour of truth and reconciliation on National Peoples Indigenous Day at the Vancouver School District in Vancouver, B.C., on Friday, June 21, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Horgan marks Indigenous Peoples Day by urging recognition of systemic racism

National Indigenous Peoples Day has been marked in Canada since 1996

A man makes his way past signage to a mass COVID-19 vaccination centre at the University of Toronto’s Mississauga campus during the COVID-19 pandemic in Mississauga, Ont., on Monday, May 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Canadians encouraged to see mRNA shots as interchangeable as more 2nd doses open up

Doctors urge people not to hesitate if offered Moderna after getting Pfizer for their first shot

Chief of Defence Staff Jonathan Vance sits in the front row during a news conference in Ottawa on June 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Defence committee rises without report on Vance allegations

Committee had been investigating the government’s handling of complaints against former defence chief

The Coquihalla Lakes washroom is getting upgrades. (Submitted)
Coquihalla to get upgrades to aging washrooms

The Ministry of Transportation is providing $1 million in funding to upgrade 3 rest areas

An example of the timber blowdown that let to the logging at Mountain Station. Photo: Anderson Creek Timber
Timber company logging near Nelson raises local concerns

Anderson Creek Timber owns 600 hectares of forest adjacent to the city

Most Read