Elk Lake-based Canadian women's rowing eight wins Olympic gold in Tokyo

The Canadian women’s rowing eight, based at Elk Lake, won Olympic gold on Thursday.

New Zealand won silver and China bronze. The U.S., unbeaten in 11 years in major events and going for its fourth consecutive Olympic gold medal, was fourth.

article continues below

The Canadian crew consisted of Avalon Wasteneys of Campbell River, Sydney Payne out of Brentwood College, Andrea Proske of the Victoria City Rowing Club, Christine Roper of Victoria, Kasia Gruchalla-Wesierski of Calgary, Susanne Grainger of London, Ont., Madison Mailey of Burnaby Lake Rowing Club, Lisa Roman of London, Ont., and coxswain Kristen Kit from the University of B.C.

A dream realized, Kit fell into the arms of Islander Wasteneys as soon as the crew crossed the line.

“We wanted to have a gutsy race and go out from the first stroke and give it our everything and see how hard we could go for as long as we could,” said Brentwood College-grad Payne, in a TV interview with CBC immediately following the race.

“I think we really executed that today.”

The coxswain set the punishing pace.

“These women trusted me,” Kit said.

“They are the most special group of women I have ever had the privilege of coxing. We came out on the course today representing a legacy,” said Kit, referencing especially the late Kathleen Heddle, a member of the Barcelona 1992 Olympic gold-medallist eights crew, who died this year of cancer.

The gold continues a trend in which women have accounted for all the Canadian medals across all sports in Tokyo.

Wasteneys, a University of Victoria rower and Carhi Secondary School graduate, followed mom and 1988 Seoul Olympian Heather Clarke and aunt and 1984 Los Angeles Olympian Christine Clarke into the Olympics in rowing so there was a natural genetic tug to water.

“Rowing runs in the family,” said Wasteneys, whose dad, Hardolph Wasteneys, also rowed.

“I grew up in a sporting environment.”

That included cross-country skiing to a junior national level on Mount Washington before being discovered by the RBC Training Ground program, which looks for unearthed talent in Canadian sports and pointed her to rowing and the Summer Games being a better bet for her instead of the Winter Games.

“There were a lot of transferable skills between the two sports and I applied the hard work and time management I learned in cross-country skiing to rowing,” said Wasteneys.

Winning Olympic gold was a journey of recovery for eights crew member Gruchalla-Wesierski. She was injured in a freak cycling accident just one month before the Olympics at Strathcona Lodge on the Island.

The 30-year-old is a former competitive alpine skier, whose ambitions in that sport were ended by a broken leg. She did eventually get to the Olympics, but in the Summer Games, despite coming to the rowing late in her athletic career.

The rowing competition at the Tokyo Olympics concluded with Canada earning two medals, gold for women’s eight and bronze for Caileigh Filmer of Victoria and Hillary Janssens of Cloverdale in the women’s pair.


- - -

To comment on this article, send a letter to the editor: letters@timescolonist.com

Read Related Topics

© Copyright Times Colonist

Most Popular