No one is going to question Canadian rower Malcolm Howard’s credentials to rate a fast men’s eight.

After all, Howard was a key part of the engine that pushed a powerhouse crew to victory last year at the Beijing Olympics to highlight a four-medal haul for Canada’s rowers.

So one can’t help but take notice when he says the men’s eight competing at the world championships this week in Poznan, Poland, does some things better than the Olympic champions did. Howard of Victoria and Andrew Byrnes of Toronto are the only returning members.

“We’re not as big as were last year,” Howard said in a telephone interview. “That was a big eight. But in many ways, we’re actually rowing better this year than we were last year.”

Rounding out a men’s eight that has a strong GTA and Ontario flavour are (cox) Mark Laidlaw of Mississauga, Derek O’Farrell of Unionville, James Dunaway of Duncan, B.C., Doug Csima of Oakville, Gabe Bergen of 100 Mile House, B.C., Rob Gibson of Kingston and Steve Van Knotsenburg of Beamsville.

• The Canadian men’s eight won its opening heat yesterday in Poland, just ahead of the Dutch, to move into this weekend’s final, where the favourite appears to be Germany.

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