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Future looks promising but uncertain for Olympic rowers

The Canadian men’s rowing eight from London — minus Malcolm Howard, who is at Oxford — got together in downtown Victoria earlier this month to celebrate the one-year anniversary of their silver-medal performance in the 2012 Summer Olympics.

The Canadian men’s rowing eight from London — minus Malcolm Howard, who is at Oxford — got together in downtown Victoria earlier this month to celebrate the one-year anniversary of their silver-medal performance in the 2012 Summer Olympics.

As a measure of how much has changed on Elk Lake in the 12 months since, not only was legendary coach Mike Spracklen let go but Rowing Canada will not even enter a men’s eight at the 2013 world rowing championships, which begin today in Chungju, South Korea.

That’s something, considering Canada’s magnificent legacy in the men’s eight, which includes 11 Olympic medals — gold at L.A. 1984, Barcelona 1992, Beijing 2008; silver at St. Louis 1904, Paris 1924, Melbourne 1956, Rome 1960, London 2012; and bronze at London 1908, Amsterdam 1928, L.A. 1932.

Aside from the men’s eight, or current lack thereof, the period leading to the 2016 Rio Olympics begins with some promise but also a fair bit of uncertainty.

“It is a good mixture of athletes, with some returning Olympians and for quite a few, their first senior world championship,” Rowing Canada high-performance director Peter Cookson said in a statement.

The three returning rowers from the London Olympic silver-medallist eight — Will Crothers, Rob Gibson and Conlin McCabe — have been placed in a Canadian four that includes Will Dean and should be a factor in South Korea.

Emerging Spencer Crowley of Lantzville, a graduate of Brentwood College, is being eased into the senior national team in the men’s pair with Steve Van Knotsenburg of the Victoria City Club. Olympian Michael Braithwaite of Duncan will help move forward the Canadian men’s quad.

The Canadian women’s eight is also the silver medallist from the London Olympics and looking to fill holes after retirements. But at least Canada is still entering a women’s eight, which includes Christine Roper and Rosie DeBoef of Victoria. The group has shown well this year, with bronze in the World Cup event at Lucerne.

The only other women’s heavyweight Canadian crew entered is the quad, which includes Antje Seydlitz-Kurzbach of the UVic Vikes.

In the lightweight class, Olympian and 2011 world championships medallist Patricia Obee of Victoria has forged a resumé that makes her a storyline worth following as she moves from the pair to the single. Brendan Hodge from Brentwood College joins Eric Woelfl in the lightweight men’s pair.

The Canadian team is being coached at the world championships by Howie Campbell and Martin McElroy, both of Victoria, former UVic coaching great Al Morrow and John Keogh of London, Ont.

ROAD TO RIO: Kirsten Sweetland of Victoria continued her comeback campaign from career-threatening injuries with a 20th-place finish at the World Cup triathlon race Saturday in Stockholm. “I feel like today didn’t reflect where I am right now. Everyone has off days, and today was mine,” the Stelly’s grad said in a statement. “Today was just a blip in the road. I am looking to sharpen up in these few weeks leading to the Grand Final in London. I’ll be looking for a top-10 in London.” UVic student Ellen Pennock was 28th. . . . Dynamic outside-hitter Shanice Marcelle of Victoria had 13 points in a women’s volleyball loss to Peru on Saturday in Winnipeg. Despite the setback, the Spectrum grad still led Canada to a 2-1 victory in the series. . . . Claremont grad Fred Winters and Oak Bay product Josh Howatson, fresh off the breakout fifth-place finish in the FIVB World League, are in Slovenia for an international men’s volleyball tournament as Canada plays Bulgaria, Denmark and host Slovenia from Aug. 29-31. . . . Island wrestler Stacie Anaka continues her rise up the FILA rankings. The Reynolds grad, out of Ed Ashmore’s Victoria Bulldogs Club, moved from seventh and is now ranked fourth in the world in the women’s 67-kilo class.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com