TORONTO - The Olympics have been one long roller-coaster for Canadian rowers Dave Calder and Scott Frandsen.
Their 2008 climb aboard the Beijing medal podium followed separate, huge disappointments four years earlier in Athens. Both men have since retired and returned to their sport, still wanting to scratch their competitive itch.
Back in their boat, the Olympic men's coxless pair silver medallists are looking to go one better in London in one of rowing's glamour events.
Peter Cookson, Rowing Canada's director of high performance, marvels at their professionalism.
"They've been true leaders ... They demonstrate every day a huge commitment to making this happen and they've been real leaders within their program," Cookson said.
After rowing at the University of California, Berkeley, and Oxford, Frandsen moved to Victoria to train with the Canadian eight. As world champions and winners in all the pre-Olympic World Cup regattas, the Canadians were favourites to win in Athens but crashed and burned in the final, placing fifth.
Calder's Athens experience was equally bleak. He and pairs partner Chris Jarvis were disqualified in the semifinals for clashing oars with another boat after straying into the adjacent lane.
"I didn't take a stroke from Athens for three years," said Calder, a grinning giant of a man at six foot five. "I got a job, I finished my degree, we bought a house."
He returned to the sport just months before Beijing, teaming up with Frandsen after taking time off due to a back injury.
After winning silver — while collecting Canada's first medal of the Games — both men left the sport.
Frandsen was working for RBC and then Dominion Securities, Calder with the B.C. government. But neither man was finished with rowing.
"Life just became a little too, I don't know, too normal, too slow," said Frandsen. "I definitely miss the structure and the absolute purpose in what you're doing every day, and that big horizon, that sort of extraordinary goal on the horizon.
"And so gradually getting into normal life, I just had that itch to chase something great again.
Calder's fire was lit by the Winter Games in Vancouver.
"It was like catching a fever, there was just so much excitement around the Canadian Olympic Committee, around being an Olympian," he said.
The 34-year-old Calder, who finished seventh in the men's eight at the 2000 Olympics, recalled riding the Canada Line from downtown Vancouver to suburban Richmond after the men's gold medal hockey game.
"And literally in that 12-minute block, five times randomly the car broke out into 'O Canada,'" he said.
"As a Canadian athlete — and I'm getting goosebumps telling you about that now — I've always dreamed about hearing the Canadian anthem played for me at the Olympic Games. And so economically, in terms of the support my wife gives me, it was logistically possible.
"And so 30 months before the Games, I started rowing again."'
Frandsen joined him, after finishing his securities licence.
Calder, a Victoria native, is currently on leave from his B.C. government job.
A long, lean native of Kelowna who had made Victoria home for the better part of eight years, Frandsen will be moving to Vancouver after the Games to continue working for Dominion.
London represents a new storyline for both men.
"Going into Beijing, it was all disappointment of Athens, is this retribution? That sort of story. And now it's can you improve upon the silver?" said Frandsen, who turns 31 Saturday
It wasn't as if Frandsen had become a couch potato away from rowing. He competed twice in the Ironman Canada Triathlon in Penticton, B.C., breaking 10 hours on his second go.
"It was so different than rowing ... With rowing, the thing that makes Dave and I and lots of us so good is that we can go harder for a little bit longer than everybody else," Frandsen said.
"Whereas in Ironman, you can't let your race, your competitiveness take over otherwise you'll go too hard in the first hour or two hours and blow up later in the day. So I really had to rein in my competitive drive and just sort of stick to my plan, stick to my heart rate, and do what I set out to do and not care if somebody was passing me on the bike."
He was about 15 minutes away from qualifying for the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii.
"So that's definitely a goal in the next couple of years," he notes.
Their current goal is to try to overhaul New Zealand's triple world championship pair of Eric Murray and Hamish Bond.
The Kiwis are unbeaten since joining forces after Beijing. Britain's Peter Reed and Andrew Triggs were repeatedly runners-up to the New Zealanders but were recently shifted to the British four.
"We don't have the pressure that I felt in Athens as the obvious favourites to win (in the eights)," said Frandsen. "And that's placed on New Zealand right now. They are the favourites to win and we're going in as contenders. It's a good position to be in."
Adds Calder: "It's a very exciting time to be the darkhorse.
The Canadians were fifth at last year's world championships but have shown their teeth since.
In May at a key pre-Olympic event, the New Zealanders trailed the Canadians for more than half the race before overhauling them to win gold at the Samsung World Rowing Cup in Lucerne, Switzerland.
Calder and Frandsen placed second, ahead of Greece.
"We were never going to take it easy, but this has really been a wake-up call that we're not going to just completely walk through this," Bond was quoted in the New Zealand Herald.
Frandsen and Calder went into Beijing having won at Lucerne.
"There's lots of pressure on us, but most of it comes from us," said Frandsen.
Calder and Frandsen pack a lot of Olympic experience into their boat.
"And 50 per cent of it's together and 50 per cent of it's separate, so we bring this huge collection of knowledge into our little boat," explained Calder.
"We want to do well, we want to win," he added. "That's why we're back in the boat and that's why we're here. We're very satisfied individually and together by our performance in Beijing but no Canadian Olympic athlete trains to be second.
"It's just not the way we do it."