Canadian rowers make splash at World Cup event in the Netherlands

As a member of the Victoria City Rowing Club, Andrea Proske knows all about the winds that can whip across Elk Lake, especially during winter training. That held her in good stead in winning bronze with Gabrielle Smith of Unionville, Ont., behind Romania and Australia in the women’s double Sunday at World Cup III in Rotterdam, Netherlands.

“It was definitely bumpy out there,” said Proske, in a statement.

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“We train on some pretty wavy water [on Elk Lake] so this isn’t so strange here. I think the change in weather conditions are part of why I love the sport so much because it can be anyone’s game. It’s not only mental out there but also very technical.”

The big Canadian podium story, however, was the bronze medal in the women’s eight behind New Zealand and Australia. It came after a disappointing sixth-place finish last month in World Cup II at Poznan, Poland. That was puzzling, considering the crew won silver medals at both the 2017 and 2018 world championships. The Canadian crew, which includes University of Victoria Vikes products Rebecca Zimmerman and Avalon Wasteneys from Campbell River, proved it is still a factor by rebounding in Rotterdam.

“They trusted in the process and they trusted in each other,” said coxswain Kristen Kit.

Sydney Payne, out of Brentwood College, and Hillary Janssens of Toronto followed up their fourth place from Poznan with another fourth place Sunday in Rotterdam.

The Elk Lake-based Canadian team, which won five medals at World Cup II in Poznan, entered a pared-down roster of six crews for World Cup III in Rotterdam.

The rest of the Canadian crews remained on Elk Lake to continue preparing for the 2019 world championships next month, which also double as the Olympic qualifier for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Closely watched will be the Canadian men’s eight, which won bronze at Poznan behind heavyweights Germany and Britain.

Canada has a fabled history in the men’s eight, with Olympic gold medals at Los Angeles in 1984, Barcelona in 1992, Beijing in 2008 and silver at London in 2012. But the program fell into such disarray that Canada did not even enter a men’s eight at the Rio 2016 Olympics, which would have been considered unthinkable previously.

Making the resurgence even more of a storyline is that 60-year-old legend Lesley Thompson-Willie, a five-time Olympic medallist with national women’s crews, has come out of retirement to cox the Canadian men’s eight in a bid to make her 10th Olympic Games appearance.

The potential turnabout in the program comes after the once-mighty Canadian rowing medal machine 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 Canadian team, long based at Elk Lake, will relocate to Quamichan Lake in North Cowichan following the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

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