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First strokes toward Paris 2024 taken on rain-drenched Elk Lake

A wet and dreary West Coast weekend greeted the rowers on Elk Lake for the Canadian championships.
Ottawa's Rile Richardson, left, and Argonaut Julia Teixeira approach the finish of a women's open 1X final heat during the RCA National Rowing Championships at Elk Lake on Saturday. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

A wet and dreary West Coast weekend greeted the rowers on Elk Lake for the Canadian championships. But it represented the first strokes toward a looming muggy date with Olympic destiny in the summer of 2024 at the Vaires-sur-Marne Nautical Stadium 35 kilometres outside Paris.

“The rain makes you appreciate the good days,” said Jack Walkey, who won the men’s national pairs title with fellow-Islander and fellow-University of Washington Huskies rower Peter Lancashire.

The trophies awarded, all named after former Olympic medallists, are a not-so-subtle reminder of the glory that was for Canada in rowing. The recipients Saturday of those trophies at Elk Lake, as the Canadian championships concluded, represent the next wave of Games hopefuls for Paris in less than three years.

Marilou Duvernay-Tardif, sister of Super Bowl champion NFL offensive lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, won the Silken Laumann Plate as national ­women’s singles champion and Curtis Ames of Alberta the Derek Porter Trophy as men’s national champion, with both awards named after Victoria rowing legends.

Kirsten Edwards and Alexis Cronk, both from the University of Victoria Vikes, won the Kathleen Heddle and Marnie McBean Plate as Canadian women’s pair champions and Lancashire and Walkey the George Hungerford and Roger Jackson Trophy as national men’s pairs champions.

Claremont Secondary ­graduate Walkey and Brentwood College-graduate Lancashire were part of the Canadian 2021 world U-23 champion fours crew, which also consisted of fellow UW Husky Adam Krol of Mississauga, Ont., and Liam Keane of Victoria, who rows in the NCAA for Dartmouth. Krol and Steve Rosts of Ontario were second Saturday at nationals in men’s pair while Keane was unable to attend.

“Paris 2024 is there for the taking. It’s on us,” said ­Lancashire, who knows he can take nothing for granted, despite his group’s world U-23 championship.

“Olympic boat seats are very dynamic and very fluid,” he said.

Especially three years out.

“There are no gifts for ­Olympic seats. No matter what you’ve done in the past, you’re back to zero every year,” added Lancashire.

Political-science majors Walkey and Lancashire and biology-major Krol also won the 2021 Pac-12 and NCAA championships with the Washington Huskies, whose 1936 Berlin Olympic-champion crew representing the U.S. was the subject of the acclaimed 2013 book The Boys in the Boat.

“We know we represent legacies every time we put on a Canada or UW singlet,” said Lancashire.

But differing legacies.

“We live in the U.S. at the moment but know well the ­Canadian rowing legacy,” said Lancashire.

The men’s national lightweight singles champion Saturday was Stephen Harris of Brock University and the women’s lightweight singles winner Karissa Riley of Alberta. Tokyo Paralympian Jessye Brockway of Mill Bay was Lagoa Rio Trophy winner as top Para rower at nationals.

All rowing in the national championship regatta was contested in singles and pairs boats to give coaches a better idea of individual talent as Rowing Canada, which won gold and bronze over the summer in the Tokyo Olympics, looked to evaluate the hopefuls for the 2022 world championships in Racice, Czech Republic. There were 195 entries from 35 clubs on Elk Lake this weekend.