U.S.A. vs. Canada Olympic rowing battle is rich in Central New York talent

The United States and Canada will go head to head in what is being heralded as one of the top showdowns of the Olympic rowing regatta on Thursday morning, the final of the womenâ??s eight.

As great as the North American rivalry already is, the Syracuse University and Ithaca connections involved are making this an even more intriguing race to those watching from Central New York.

The U.S. boat will feature Ithaca native Caryn Davies and Ithaca Collegeâ??s Meghan Muscniki. The U.S. eight have not lost in six years but will be in for a challenge against Team Canada, a boat that features Syracuse University rower Natalie Mastracci.

"Our coach frequently tells us that you don't get a lot of moments like this," says Mastracci. "We all take the time to not only realize how blessed we are, but also being able to row with amazing people every day."

SU's head women's rowing coach Justin Moore is a six-time NCAA champion and U.S. Junior National Team coach, but also spend the 2006-2007 season working with the Canadian National teams and coaches at their training centers in London. Moore's experience helping to train with both countries gives him a unique perspective heading into Thursday's Olympic Final.

"I am in awe of (Natalie)," says Moore. "You see how hard it is to make an Olympic team, and then go there and be successful, and I truly believe that she and her crew are going to go there and be successful at the Olympics. I am in awe of her focus and dedication that was unwavering, and then for her, I hope she is able to enjoy the event, to be in the moment, and to look around and say 'I am so lucky to be here,' and then honor her family, Canada and SU with her best possible effort."

"It's definitely the hardest two years that I've ever been through," says Mastracci. "And, I only want it to get harder and more demanding so I can get everything out before this race, because you don't have a lot of time to prepare and you want to get every inch you can out of the water before you get there."

The race is slated to start at 7:30 AM eastern time on Thursday morning, and can be watched live on NBCâ??s Live Extra website.

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