Canadian rowing team ready for world championships

The Canadian national rowing team is more than just looking ahead to its future home base near Duncan after 2020. It’s already using it in a practical sense.

The program, long based at Elk Lake, utilized its soon-to-be post-Tokyo home of Quamichan Lake in North Cowichan for the trials to select its team for the World Cup events in Poland and the Netherlands in June and July. Those lead to the 2019 world championships later in the summer, which are the Olympic qualifier.

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Along with the new comes the familiar as the rebounding program is retooling with some old parts as it heads into the Olympic qualifying summer for Tokyo 2020.

One of Canada’s most famous Olympians, five-time medallist Lesley Thompson-Willie, has come out of retirement and moved to the Island to cox the Canadian men’s eight crew in a bid for her incredible 10th Olympic Games appearance at the age of 60.

Silver medallist 2012 London Olympian Will Crothers also rejoins the team and will row in the eight, which includes Martin Barakso of Nanaimo.

The lightweight men’s double will include Patrick Keane of the University of Victoria Vikes and Maxwell Lattimer of the UBC Thunderbirds. After coming close with a couple of fourth-place World Cup finishes last year, Keane and Maxwell appear poised to take that next step onto the podium this summer.

Veterans Kai Langerfeld of Parksville, a 2016 Rio Olympian, and London 2012 Olympic silver medallist Conlin McCabe will be in the intriguing new men’s pair.

The women’s team is led by defending world pairs champions Caileigh Filmer of Victoria and Hillary Janssens of Cloverdale, who based on current rankings, are Canada’s biggest hopes of Olympic gold in Tokyo.

Big things will also be expected this year and next for the 2018 world championship silver medallist women’s double team of Andrea Proske of Victoria and Gabrielle Smith of Unionville, Ont.

The women’s team also includes UVic Vikes graduates Avalon Wasteneys of Campbell River and Rebecca Zimmerman, Brentwood College graduate Sydney Payne and veterans Christine Roper, Lisa Roman and Susanne Grainger who have helped bring the Canadian eight to world attention and a boat to be watched heading into Tokyo 2020.

The Canadian program has painstakingly rebuilt on Elk Lake following the lone silver medal in the 2016 Rio Summer Games won by the Victoria lightweight double of Patricia Obee and Lindsay Jennerich.

The process took the program pretty much down to the foundations following Rio before building it back up with new coaches such as Kiwis Dave Thompson and Dick Tonks, who developed new athletes, with a little help from a few golden oldies like Willie-Thompson.

“I am very excited to see the quality and depth of our Canadian crews heading into the Olympic and Paralympic qualification year,” said Rowing Canada high-performance director Iain Brambell of Brentwood Bay.

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