Victoria City juniors rowing to Tokyo — virtually, of course

It’s one thing to row in Tokyo, which the Elk Lake-based Canadian crews are preparing to do this summer in the Olympics. It’s quite another to row to Tokyo, which a group of Victoria City Rowing Club junior athletes are doing this weekend. They hope to be nearing Honolulu, with Guam in their sights.

The six Victoria City junior girls are in the lead among 30 crews from across Canada in the Row to Tokyo Challenge, which began April 19 and concludes May 2, to determine who can get farthest across the Pacific from Victoria, virtually on stationary rowing machines.Tokyo was chosen as the virtual destination for obvious reasons.

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“Our girls’ machines are outside the boat house and they are staring right at Elk Lake and watching the Olympic team train on the water while they themselves are rowing stationary,” said Katie Bahain-Steenman, Vic City director of junior rowing.

Even the Olympians have to be impressed by the sheer pluck of this Vic City super six. The Victoria City junior girls were in first place on Saturday in the challenge, ahead of the second-place University of Calgary Under-23 men’s crew.

The Vic City crew is a determined lot and have been since the start of the challenge. They are finishing it off this weekend by going at it from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, stopping only for limited breaks.

“The girls have their piles of food and drink right next to them,” said Bahain-Steenman.

“They have stopped all other training to do this. They are very focused and committed. You have to be to put in 16 hours a day over two weekend days. They want to keep their lead and not be overtaken.”

The Vic City crew of Quinn Parfitt, Eryn Wale, Tegan Zecher, Hui-Lin Shan, Stella Graham and Willow Tzonev had pulled for a combined 1,804 kilometres by early Saturday. The University of Calgary men’s U-23 were at 1,660 kilometres and third-place Ottawa Rowing Club at 1,039 kilometres. None will reach the 7,575 kilometres to Tokyo, but it’s the thought, and effort, that counts.

Bahain-Steenman commended her athletes on the work they have put in throughout the pandemic. B.C. health restrictions limit training to singles boats with an exclusion provided for the Olympic team rowers, who are allowed to train in larger crew boats on Elk Lake in preparation for the Summer Games.

For the clubs involved, the Row to Tokyo Challenge has provided a much-needed competition of sorts in the absence of actual regattas over the past year. And one crew of relentless Island junior rowers won’t quit until they get as close as they can to Japan, even if it’s only virtually.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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