Canadian rowers back, ready to make a splash

Caileigh Filmer of Victoria, returning from an injury that sidelined her for most of the summer, will be pulling double duty at the 2019 world rowing championships this month.

The worlds are also the qualifier for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, so there’s a lot at stake when the Mount Douglas graduate and UVic Vikes rower takes to the water Aug. 25 to Sept. 1 in both the women’s pair and eight.

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Filmer and Hillary Janssens, the defending world champions in pair, were both also named for the Canadian eight, which is the defending silver medallist from the 2017 and 2018 world championships. Also in the eight will be Avalon Wasteneys, the UVic Vikes rower from Campbell River.

The team for the worlds/Olympic qualifier was named Tuesday by Elk Lake-based Rowing Canada.

An intriguing storyline is the re-emergence of the Canadian eight, which won bronze this summer at World Cup II in Poland behind its former great rivals Germany and Britain.

Canada has a storied history in the event with Olympic gold medals at Los Angeles in 1984, Barcelona in 1992, Beijing in 2008 and silver at London in 2012. But the team dropped so low, and literally out of sight, when Canada did not even enter a men’s eight at Rio 2016. That would have been considered unthinkable in years past.

Now there is a promising crew emerging with the likes of Benjamin De Wit of Port Alice and Brentwood College-graduate Martin Barakso of Nanaimo. There is also a whiff of past glory in the crew with 2012 London Olympics silver-medallist Will Crothers returning and also 60-year-old coxswain Lesley Thompson-Willie, a five-time Olympic medallist, who has come out of retirement looking for her astonishing 10th Olympic Games appearance. The eight is coached by Terry Paul of Victoria, who coxed Canada to Olympic gold at Barcelona in 1992.

There are also high hopes for the Canadian men’s pair of Olympic silver-medallist Conlin McCabe and 2016 Olympian Kai Langerfeld of Parksville, who teamed for bronze at World Cup II in Poland. So, too, is promise showing for the women’s double of Andrea Proske of Victoria City Rowing Club and Gabrielle Smith of Unionville, Ont., after their bronze medal this summer in World Cup III in Rotterdam.

After some close-call fourth places in World Cups, the Canadian lightweight double of Patrick Keane from Victoria and Maxwell Lattimer from Delta will be looking for the podium at the worlds.

The potential turnabout in the Canadian rowing program comes after the once-mighty Canadian team was reduced to a single silver medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics, won by the Victoria women’s lightweight double of Lindsay Jennerich and Patricia Obee.

The Canadian team has been rebuilt on Elk Lake the past three years under the guidance of Kiwi coaches Dick Tonks on the men’s side and Dave Thompson on the women’s side.

The team, long based at Elk Lake, will relocate to Quamichan Lake in North Cowichan after the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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