Island family connections abound as Rowing Canada names Olympic team

Follow the family tree as Island-based Rowing Canada announced its 29-athlete team for the Tokyo Olympics, its largest since the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta.

Debutante Avalon Wasteneys of Campbell River, a product of the University of Victoria Vikes program, will row in the Canadian women’s eight and follow mom and 1988 Seoul Olympian Heather Clarke into the Olympics. Returning Kai Langerfeld of Parksville, meanwhile, will row the men’s pair to continue a family tradition stretching to dad York Langerfeld’s participation in the 1976 Montreal Olympics.

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“Rowing runs in the family,” said Wasteneys, whose aunt Christine Clarke is also an Olympian, from 1984 in Los Angeles.

Wasteneys’ dad, Hardolph Wasteneys, rowed at Queen’s University.

“I grew up in a sporting environment.”

That included cross-country skiing to a junior national level on Mount Washington.

“Not all dreams come true,” said Wasteneys, a graduate of Carihi.

But what was not accomplished on the snow for the Winter Olympics came through on the water for the Summer Games as the Islander’s natural athletic ability became evident with a switch to rowing.

“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.

Caileigh Filmer of Victoria and Hillary Janssens of Cloverdale, the 2018 world champions in women’s pair, will be podium favourites in Tokyo. Filmer also has a strong familial connection to rowing as the Mount Douglas Secondary product followed mom Helen into the UVic Vikes program.

“With so much uncertainty as to whether these Olympic Games would actually happen, this announcement is so surreal,” said the younger Filmer.

“These Games are so special because it will be the first time since the start of the global pandemic that the world will come together, unified. I hope to inspire Canadians through our courage and bravery, as we celebrate coming together for something bigger than ourselves.”

The national team rowers train on Elk Lake in Saanich and Quamichan Lake in North Cowichan and will be vacating their long-time home on Elk Lake exclusively for Quamichan Lake post-Tokyo.

Rowing Canada has won 41 Olympic medals, third most among Canadian sports in the Summer Olympics, and is looking to rebound at Tokyo following the single silver medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics through the Victoria lightweight women’s double of Patricia Obee and Lindsay Jennerich.

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