Mercer pulling for local Olympians

Rick Mercer talks dockside about his brief experiences learning about the famed Brentwood College rowing program. - Don Bodger
Rick Mercer talks dockside about his brief experiences learning about the famed Brentwood College rowing program.
— image credit: Don Bodger

They’re all there in the same boat: three-time Olympians Harold Backer and Dave Calder, two-time Olympian Scott Frandsen, and Rick Mercer.

Wait a minute. Rick Mercer?

The oddball in that group is indeed the CBC television personality and host of the Rick Mercer Report.

The wannabe athlete joined the prestigious company of Brentwood College’s three most famous rowing alumni for a spin in the waters off Mill Bay Monday during taping for his show. Mercer doesn’t pretend for a second he’s capable of pulling his weight in this crew.

“Drama club was my sport growing up,’’ he quipped.

Mercer visited Brentwood College with his entourage to learn more about the school’s storied rowing program.

“It’s a little bit frightening,’’ he conceded. “The oars are moving so fast.’’

Mercer has never been in a racing shell before.

“Just in a row boat, nothing like this,’’ he said.

“The boats are beautiful. It’s beautiful to watch when I’m not in the boat.’’

The surroundings of a calm day on the water also didn’t go unnoticed.

“If it was a little prettier, that would help,’’ Mercer said in his trademark sarcastic style.

He’s always held a special place in his heart for our Canadian Olympians.

“I always liked hanging with Olympians, even though Olympians are such strange characters,’’ Mercer said. “They work so hard for so little glory.’’

Backer, a 1980 Brentwood grad, participated in the 1984 Los Angeles, 1988 Seoul, South Korea and 1992 Barcelona Olympics; 1996 grad Calder was in the Olympics at Sydney in 2000, Athens in 2004 and Beijing in 2008; and 1998 grad Frandsen represented Canada in Athens and Beijing.

Mercer can appreciate the time and effort that goes into rowing from his brief experience.

“It’s just a lot of hard work and it’s dangerous,’’ he stressed. “You can get an oar in your face and it can take your teeth out.’’

Mercer made a stop in Tofino for a session with the Surf Sisters before coming to Brentwood. The surfing segment is expected to air next week and the Brentwood rowing piece the following week.

“It’s fantastic for the school,’’ said Brentwood’s Head of Rowing Brian Carr. “It’s fantastic for the sport of rowing.’’

Brentwood hosts the largest junior regatta in North America hosted by a single school. This year’s event takes place April 29 through May 1.

Mercer’s arrival at the school created quite a stir.

“When you watch it, you can’t believe he’s actually here,’’ said Carr.

“The kids are all giddy with excitement,’’ said Clayton Johnston, Brentwood’s director of admissions who made the arrangements to bring Mercer here.

“I’ve been working on it for a few months — just kept at them and trying to arrange dates,’’ Johnston said. “Finally, I got a quick call and we threw it together.

“Things wouldn’t happen unless you try. He’s an iconic Canadian political satirist and comedian.’’

On Mercer’s last visit to the island, he wound up rappelling onto a navy ship in Esquimalt.

“I always end up in the water, for some reason,’’ he laughed.

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