The Island-based Canadian rowing team will be looking to stroke from Belgrade to Paris in just 2,000 metres.
The 2023 world rowing championships begin today in the Serbian capital, and run to next Sunday, and are the main direct qualifier for the Paris Olympics. Depending on the event, the top five- to 11-finishing boats in each class will earn berths into the 2024 Summer Olympics to fill out most of the Games field.
It is the making moment and the Canadian team has been preparing for this through the months of training on Quamichan Lake in North Cowichan.
“We have talked about going to Belgrade with the goals of our best possible performances and qualifying boats for next year’s Paris Olympics. With those goals in mind, we have nominated a talented and experienced squad of rowers who we believe can achieve these goals,” said Rowing Canada high-performance director Adam Parfitt of Sidney, in a statement.
“The nominated crews are the result of an extensive selection period at the national training centre [on Quamichan Lake], and our team is excited to take to the waters in Belgrade.”
Returning from the Tokyo Olympic gold-medallist Canadian women’s eight crew is University of Victoria Vikes graduate Avalon Wasteneys of Campbell River, Brentwood College graduate Sydney Payne, Kasia Gruchalla-Wesierski of Knowlton, Atla., and coxswain Kristen Kit from UBC. Newcomers to the crew include two rowers from the UVic Vikes program in Alexis Cronk and Kirsten Edwards. Also joining the crew in the bid to defend the Olympic gold in Paris are Jessica Sevick of UBC and Ontario rowers Morgan Rosts and Cassidy Deane.
There is an attempt also to resurrect the glory that was in the Canadian men’s eight in a legacy that includes Olympic gold medals at Los Angeles in 1984, Barcelona in 1992, Beijing in 2008 and silver at London in 2012 when the Canadian team was based on Elk Lake. After foregoing the event for the Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020 cycles because of lack of depth, Canada is again entering a men’s eight crew. It is being led by the veteran 2012 London Olympics silver-medallist Will Crothers, 35, backed by a rising young crew that includes Liam Keane of Victoria, following in his brother and Tokyo Olympian Patrick Keane’s oar strokes.
Tokyo Olympics bronze-medallist Caileigh Filmer of Victoria returns and will be in the women’s pair with Maya Meschkuleit of Ontario. The women’s four will be led by UVic Vikes rowers Rebecca Zimmerman and Piper Battersby. The women’s double sculls will be paced by Marilou Duvernay-Tardif, sister of Super Bowl champion doctor Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, and Katie Clark. Returning in the men’s singles is Tokyo Olympian Trevor Jones of Peterborough, Ont.
The Canadian team consists of 39 athletes in 10 crews.
“We have a history of being really successful [when the national team was based down-Island on Elk Lake over four decades],” Parfitt told the Times Colonist.
Rowing has produced the second most gold medals for Canada at the Summer Olympics with 10, behind only track and field’s 16, and the third most Summer Olympics medals in total with 43, behind track and field’s 66 and swimming’s 54. But that was in the halcyon days.
“We’re not busy patting ourselves on the back. We learned a lot over the summer [during two European World Cup Regattas and Royal Henley in England] and some hard truths about where our strengths and gaps are,” said Parfitt.
“Being a two-to-three-medal nation at the Olympics [in rowing] feels right for us. We have a lot of things going for us in a supportive community that has been good to us.”