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Rowers set off for Europe with ambitions for Rio

Rowing, with strong Island connections, has been a reliable medal earner for Canada in the Summer Olympics. But first you have to get there.

 

Rowing, with strong Island connections, has been a reliable medal earner for Canada in the Summer Olympics.

But first you have to get there.

Canada announced its team on Friday for the 2015 World Championships, which will also serve as the Olympic trials for Rio 2016. In order to dip their oars into the controversial Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon in Rio, the rowers must first qualify through the trials Aug. 30 to Sept. 6 on Lac d’Aiguebelette in France.

Suddenly, it’s all very real. Do well in France in a couple of weeks, and you stamp your ticket to Rio next year.

“Everyone [on the Canadian team] is quietly confident. We’ve done so much work this year and are prepared to race,” said Kai Langerfeld of Parksville, the recent Pan Am Games double gold-medallist, who is attempting to become the second generation from his family to row in the Olympics after his father, York Langerfeld, at Montreal in 1976.

The best Canadian men’s bets for Rio are the Elk Lake-based four and quad. The former consists of Langerfeld, Tim Schrijver and 2012 London silver-medallists Conlin McCabe and Will Crothers. The latter has Matt Buie, Julien Bahain, Will Dean and 2012 London silver-medallist Rob Gibson.

On the Canadian women’s side, big things are expected from the eights crew and also Victorians Lindsay Jennerich and Patricia Obee in the lightweight doubles as Rowing Canada can legitimately target four medals at Rio 2016.

Canada will also try to qualify the mixed-coxed four for the Rio Paralympics.

The Canadian team leaves today for a training camp in Italy before busing into France for the World Championships/ Olympic trials.

Only track and field, with 13, has won more gold medals for Canada in the Summer Olympics than rowing’s nine. In total Summer Olympics medals, rowing is third with 40 behind track and field’s 54 and swimming’s 43. Canada won two silvers in rowing — in the men’s and women’s eights — at London 2012.

As for the concerns being raised about water quality at the Rio Games rowing venue, the Canadians say they will be prepared to protect themselves next year.

“Our team takes precautions to make sure nobody gets sick. I’m not too worried,” Langerfeld said.

It’s a calculation that a water sport always takes into account.

“Rio is not the only location where we take extra caution,” said Donna Atkinson of Victoria, Rowing Canada executive director.

“We always prepare and Rio will be no different,” added the former director of parks, recreation and community development for the City of Victoria.

The American team, including 11 athletes and four coaches, fell ill at last week’s World Junior Rowing Championships in Rio, which was the official Olympic test event. The source of the illnesses remains a matter of debate.

The Canadian junior rowing team in Rio — which included Sydney Payne, Yvonne Anguelov and Elliot Rogers from Brentwood College and Isaac Donaldson and Liam Keane of Victoria City Club — experienced no ill effects.

“It’s a matter of preparation,” Atkinson said.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com