Six crews of Canadian rowers head from Elk Lake to Rotterdam for World Cup III

The Elk Lake-based Canadian rowing team, which won five medals at World Cup II last month in Poznan, Poland, is entering a pared-down roster of six crews for World Cup III this weekend in Rotterdam, Netherlands.

The rest of the Canadian crews will remain on Elk Lake to continue preparing for the 2019 world championships next month, which also double as the Olympic qualifier for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

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The major Canadian crew competing in Rotterdam will be the women’s eight, which placed sixth in Poznan. That was perhaps a disappointment, considering the crew won silver at both the 2017 and 2018 world championships. The Canadian crew includes University of Victoria Vikes products Rebecca Zimmerman and Avalon Wasteneys from Campbell River.

Another women’s crew to watch in Rotterdam will be Sydney Payne, out of Brentwood College, and Hillary Janssens of Toronto in the women’s pair as they look to build on their fourth place from Poznan.

Also in Rotterdam will be the emerging crew of Andrea Proske of Victoria City and Gabrielle Smith from Unionville, Ont., who have shown promising results the last two years in the women’s double.

The Canadian men’s eight won bronze at Poznan and will remain training on Elk Lake. The crew provided the biggest Canadian splash in Poznan by showing the ability to again challenge great rivals Germany and Britain.

Canada has a storied history in the men’s eight, with Olympic gold medals at Los Angeles in 1984, Barcelona in 1992, Beijing in 2008 and silver at London in 2012. But the program experienced a decline so steep that Canada did not even enter a men’s eight at Rio 2016, which would have been considered unthinkable in past years.

Making the resurgence even more compelling is that 60-year-old legend Lesley Thompson-Willie, a five-time Olympic medallist with national women’s crews, has come out of retirement to cox the Canadian men’s eight in what would be a remarkable 10th Olympic Games appearance.

The turnaround in the program comes after a single Canadian rowing medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics, earned by the Victoria women’s lightweight double of Lindsay Jennerich and Patricia Obee.

The Canadian program has been retooled on Elk Lake the past three years by Kiwi coaches Dick Tonks on the men’s side and Dave Thompson on the women’s.

The Canadian team, long based at Elk Lake, will relocate to Quamichan Lake in North Cowichan following the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

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