Caileigh Filmer of Victoria, only 19, scored the biggest upset of the Canadian Olympic rowing selection process by winning a seat on the veteran-laden and medal-potential women’s eight crew for the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Canada’s 26-athlete rowing team to the Summer Games in August was named Tuesday in Toronto. The national team is based at Elk Lake in Saanich and Lake Fanshawe in London, Ont.
“It still feels very surreal. However, I am extremely excited moving forward to step up to the challenge that lies ahead in Rio,” said Filmer, the Mount Douglas Secondary graduate, who rows in the NCAA Pac-12 for Cal-Berkeley.
The Canadian women’s eight won bronze at the 2015 world championships and silver at the 2012 London Olympics, the latter with University of Victoria Vikes alumni rowers Darcy Marquardt and Rachel Viinberg.
“Being in a boat that carries so much history in it and experience gives me the confidence in myself to be fearless and relentless every stroke,” Filmer said.
The emerging Island rower, late to national camp because of her NCAA commitments at Cal-Berkeley, brought too much skill and power to the boat to be ignored. She graduates to the big time from past international experiences rowing in the world junior championships, world U-23 championships and the Youth Olympics.
“Although I have only been training in the boat a short amount of time, I am working on quickly being able to adapt to matching the strong, powerful rhythm my teammates have set, and to also contribute all I can, regardless of my age,” said Filmer, whose uncle is Mann Cup-champion Victoria Shamrocks lacrosse head coach Bob Heyes.
“Age has never been a limiting factor for me. I always seek to achieve what seems to be near impossible because I believe that your mind is the only limiting factor.”
It is at moments like this that one’s mind races back to those formative strokes first taken on that lake off the Pat Bay Highway.
“Only a couple short years ago, I was training with the Victoria City Rowing Club on Elk Lake as a junior rower,” Filmer recalled.
“I think back to those times often, where I built the necessary training habits, that have helped me get to where I am today.”
Filmer’s crewmates in the eight at Rio will include Christine Roper of Victoria and Montego Bay, Jamaica, and UVic Vikes product Antje von Seydlitz from Smithers.
Other Islanders of note named Tuesday to the Canadian rowing team for Rio are the potent Victoria women’s lightweight double of Claremont-grad Lindsay Jennerich and Stelly’s-product Patricia Obee, 2014 world championship silver medallists and fourth at the 2015 worlds, and who won the final big World Cup race before Rio held last month in Lucerne, Switzerland.
Kai Langerfeld of Parksville will become a second-generation Olympian in Rio, joining dad and 1976 Montreal Olympian York Langerfeld. Kai Langerfeld, out of Ballenas Secondary, joins Tim Schrijver and 2012 London Olympic eights silver-medallists Conlin McCabe and Will Crothers in the Canadian men’s four in Rio. That boat placed fourth at the 2015 world championships.
The men’s quad sculls will feature 2012 London Olympic eights silver-medallist Rob Gibson, Will Dean from Brentwood College Club, Pascal Lussier of Quebec and 30-year-old dual citizen Julian Bahain, who won four world championship medals and an Olympic bronze medal for France at Beijing in 2008, before relocating to train on Elk Lake and compete for Canada.
The rowing competition of the Rio Olympic Games takes place from Aug. 6 to 14 at Rodrigo de Freitas Lake.