Heading into the London Games, Byrnes had competed at five senior World Championships winning four medals: gold in 2007, silver in 2009 and bronze in 2011 in the eight as well as a 2006 bronze in coxed pairs with Derek O’Farrell and Brian Price. Byrnes also captured a bronze medal at the 2005 Under-23 World Championships in the eight which was his first major international competition.
A dual-citizen, Byrnes was born in Toronto, Ontario, and raised in Ithaca, New York where he attended Ithaca High School. He graduated in 2005 with a Bachelor of Science in Physics from Bates College in Maine, and in 2006 with a Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania.
Beijing 2008 Men’s Eight
The Canadian men’s eight went into the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing confident, dominant and expected to win gold.
Coached by Mike Spracklen, the crew of Kevin Light, Ben Rutledge, Andrew Byrnes, Jake Wetzel, Malcolm Howard, Dominic Seiterle, Adam Kreek , Kyle Hamilton and coxswain Brian Price had consistently proven to be the best, winning the 2007 World Championship title as well as back-to-back editions of the prestigious Lucerne World Cup in 2007 and 2008.
Once in Beijing, the team was described as “swaggering around” by six-time Olympic medallist Steven Redgrave, who was commentating for the BBC. That swagger was well deserved, as they won their heat by more than seven seconds.
In the final, the Canadians jumped out quickly and at the 500m mark had a quarter of a boat length lead. They continued to blow away the field, extending the lead to a full boat length at the midway point. Then it was just a matter of holding off a late charge by Great Britain and the United States to claim the gold medal.
It was a victory that inspired Canadians, particularly the lasting image of the crew singing ‘O Canada’ loudly and proudly on the dock. It prompted triathlete Simon Whitfield to tape the words ‘Sing Like Kreek’ to the handlebars of his bike during his race to the silver medal in Beijing.