They are a striking study in contrasts physically with Hillary Janssens six-foot-two and Caileigh Filmer of Victoria five-foot-seven. But they fit together so well in a rowing shell. Combined, they reached high enough to the podium at the Tokyo Olympic Games in taking the bronze medal in the women’s rowing pair on Wednesday.
It was all heart, said the 24-year-old Filmer, as she and 27-year-old Victoria-resident Hillary Janssens, originally from Cloverdale, placed third in the six-boat final behind New Zealand and the Russian Olympic Committee. The Kiwis were across in six minutes, 50.19 seconds over the 2,000 metre course on the Sea Forest Waterway. The Russians – who cannot wear their national team kit because of sanctions – recorded a 6:51.45 and Canada 6:52.10.
“In the last 100 metres, I told told Hil, I’m staying internal. And in the first kilometre, I didn’t look out once, because I just wanted to go fast,” Filmer told the CBC in a water-side TV interview immediately following the race.
“We told ourselves that, to the first kilometre, we were going to race physically. And in the last kilometre, it was with heart,” added the Mount Douglas Secondary School graduate, who rows for the University of Victoria Vikes.
Said Janssens: “The only goal was to make it hurt and we did that. It’s been a long extra year [on Elk Lake] and I’m really happy we got here and to come away this.”
The 2018 world champions matched their third-place showing from the 2019 world championships.
“I think a strength of our partnership is our work ethic and we just work as hard as we can every single day,” said Filmer.
“I think that together we push each other and hold ourselves to the highest standards.”
It’s been a familial journey for Filmer, who followed mom Helen into the UVic Vikes program, and now has taken the family legacy and extended it all the way to the Olympic podium. Janssens also has a family sporting history as uncle Mark Janssens played 12 seasons in the NHL for the New York Rangers, Hartford Whalers, Anaheim Ducks and Chicago Blackhawks.
Meanwhile, there was wrenching heartbreak for the Canadian men’s pair of Kai Langerfeld of Parksville, a graduate of Ballenas Secondary, and veteran Conlin McCabe. The Canadians were pipped for the bronze medal by less than a second by Denmark. The gold and silver medals will went to Croatia and Romania.
Canadians Trevor Jones, sixth in the men’s singles semifinals, and Carling Zeeman, fifth in the women’s singles, were relegated to the B finals with no shot at the medals.
The men’s four finished eighth overall.
“We can walk away and be proud of [this],” said veteran Will Crothers, a London 2012 Olympic silver medallist with the Canadian eight.
“We can walk away with our heads held high and look each other in the eye. We did everything we could.”