Canadian rowers serve notice they’re back on track

There was much to take away for the Elk Lake-based Canadian rowing team from World Cup II in Poznan, Poland, not the least of which were the five medals won on the weekend.

It was a good start to a crucial season that will conclude with the 2019 world championships, which also double as the Olympic qualifier for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

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There are big hopes for some of the Canadian boats after the retooling that took place on Elk Lake following the disappointing showing at the 2016 Rio Olympics, which produced a lone silver medal through the Victoria women’s lightweight double of Lindsay Jennerich and Patricia Obee.

University of Victoria Vikes graduate Kai Langerfeld of Parksville and 2012 London Olympic silver-medallist Conlin McCabe won bronze Sunday in Poznan in the men’s pair.

“This was our first race of the season, so it’s nice to get a medal,” said McCabe.

The big Canadian story was the return of the men’s eight as a major factor with bronze Sunday in Poland behind their former great rivals Germany and Great Britain.

Canada has a fabled 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 program had sunk so low that Canada did not even enter a men’s eight at Rio 2016.

Now there is a promising crew emerging with the likes of Brentwood College grad Martin Barakso of Nanaimo. There is also something decidedly old school in this men’s eight mix 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 remarkable 10th Olympic Games appearance.

“This is all just really huge for the crew,” said Crothers. “We haven’t really had a men’s eight since 2012, so to have this good of a crew at such a level, is really great.”

The final medal Sunday went to Carling Zeeman with bronze in the women’s single as she looks to make the event relevant again for Canada on the world stage for the first time since the halcyon era of Victoria legend Silken Laumann.

Canada’s medals from earlier in the weekend came from Jill Moffatt with gold in the women’s lightweight single, a non-Olympic event, and a Paralympics-event silver medal through Jeremy Hall of Victoria in the men’s single.

There were two encouraging fourth-place results with Sydney Payne out of Brentwood College and Hillary Janssens of Toronto in the women’s pair and Patrick Keane of Victoria and Maxwell Lattimer of Delta in the men’s lightweight double.

A disappointment Sunday might have been the Canadian women’s eight in sixth place, considering the crew is the defending silver medallist from the 2017 and 2018 world championships. The Canadian crew includes University of Victoria Vikes products Rebecca Zimmerman and Avalon Wasteneys from Campbell River.

“World Rowing Cup 2 was a learning and development opportunity for our team with the pinnacle event being the Olympic and Paralympic qualifiers at world championships later this summer,” said Rowing Canada high performance director Iain Brambell of Brentwood Bay, in a statement.

“We prospered with five podium finishes and two very close fourth-place finishes this weekend. We look forward to building on this momentum in the lead up to World Cup 3 [next month in Rotterdam, Netherlands], and world championships.”

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

The Canadian program, long based at Elk Lake, used its soon-to-be post-Tokyo home of Quamichan Lake in North Cowichan for the national trials last month to select the team for the World Cup regattas.

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