Island-based rowers off to fast start at Tokyo Olympics

The opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics began ­Friday with a solitary figure on a ­treadmill. It was a simple but poignant evocation of the last 16 months. But the delay wasn’t all that bad for some athletes.

Canadian rowers spent one more year training on Elk Lake and Quamichan Lake than they expected. The extra time may have made medal threats Caileigh Filmer of Victoria and Hillary Janssens of Cloverdale — world champions in 2018 and third-ranked heading into Tokyo — even more formidable in the women’s pair. They swept to victory in their opening race Friday to advance to the semifinals Tuesday. The Canadian duo was more than two seconds clear of runner-up Romania with Italy third, U.S. fourth and Greece fifth.

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Trevor Jones also clearly made use of the extra training time on the Island, winning his opening Olympic men’s singles race in Tokyo to advance to the quarter-finals Monday.

“I’m a year older, I got a year extra of training, and I definitely think I’m way faster than I would have been racing here a year ago,” said Jones. “It wasn’t perfect but I used the extra year the best that I could.”

What made his opening-round victory so impressive was that the Peterborough, Ont., native bested 2016 Rio Olympic ­doubles silver-medallist ­Mindaugas Griškonis, shunting the ­Lithuanian to second place.

“I’m just kind of having fun with it,” said Jones.

“[I’m] getting to race some of the best rowers in the world — it’s some of the fastest people on the planet. I know I’m fast. I’m just going to have fun and enjoy the experience and just kind of take it day by day.”

The Island-based Canadian rowing team got off to a strong start in other events too with Carling Zeeman placing second in her women’s singles opener to advance to the quarter-finals and Jessica Sevick and Gabrielle Smith second in the women’s double to advance to the A/B semifinals.

“It hasn’t sunk in. It’s honestly surreal,” said Sevick.

“Even with COVID, it’s been an amazing experience so far.”

The Canadian rowing team will move to Quamichan Lake in North Cowichan post-Tokyo after decades on Elk Lake in Saanich.

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