“You find out what you’re made of, often in your worst moments.”
At the age of seven Brian was diagnosed with Leukemia ALL, and was given a new outlook on life at a very young age. It took five years to beat cancer, but the chemotherapy and other drugs that he took left his thyroid only half functioning during a critical growth period, preventing him from reaching his full growth potential. Standing at a mere 5’4″ tall and 120lbs, he is the perfect size to be a coxswain.
Although the battle to beat cancer was extremely difficult it allowed him to become one of the best coxswains in the world. Brian is adamant that “Without having had cancer I would never have become a 3-time World Champion and Olympic Champion.” Brian has gone from a small town kid to an internationally recognized coxswain. Growing up he always had an interest in sports, and started rowing on the Bay of Quinte with the Quinte Rowing Club in 1995.
Almost instantly falling in love with the sport, he thrived on the fact that he had so much influence on how fast the boat would go and how hard he could push his athletes. He continued to row from 1997 until 1998 at the Argonaut Rowing Club in Toronto while completing an Honors diploma in Civil Engineering Technology. Upon graduation, Brian decided to follow his passion for rowing instead of pursuing a career in Civil Engineering. He first made the National Team in 1998, and has been the #1 coxswain in Canada since 2001. Brian and his crew began making waves on the international scene in 2002, winning Canada’s first World Rowing Championship title in the Men’s Eight. They repeated their winning performance in 2003 and were heavy favorites for gold at the 2004 Athens Olympics.
For Brian, placing a disappointing 5th at his first Olympics would be one of the biggest learning experiences and challenges since facing cancer as a child. Discouraged and distraught, his plans to move on with life had to be put on hold in order to continue pursuing his dream of Olympic Gold. After two seasons with mixed results, Brian and his crew regained their World Championship title in 2007, and once again had the hopes of their country weighing heavily on them.
The Canadian Men’s Eight rose to the occasion in Beijing, and were ecstatic to bring home Olympic Gold. Brian and his crewmates had come full circle, rising from defeat four years earlier. The dreams of a young boy and childhood cancer survivor from a small town had come true.
Following his Olympic victory, Brian spent two years travelling the country and sharing his story with fellow Canadians as a motivational speaker. He returned to the National Team in 2010 with the goal of leading a largely new and inexperienced crew to the Olympic podium in London.
For two years, Brian had to continually balance the demands of raising a family and training with his young team. This required a great deal of focus and personal growth, and culminated when his family watched him and his teammates win an Olympic silver medal in London. He now lives in Ontario with his wife Robbi, young daughters Brianna and Peyton. In the fall of 2013 he retired from rowing and resumed his motivational speaker career.