Canada’s rowing tradition continues at Tokyo 2020 — and beyond

Anointed by winds from Typhoon Nepartek, the Tokyo Olympic regatta produced race delays, a capsized boat, the world’s best times, and — of course — Olympic gold for the Canadian women’s eight.

Over the past year, the Canadian rowing team worked through the challenges of coaching changes and COVID-19 lockdowns to continue a strong legacy in this power-endurance sport.

There were many notable Canadian moments in this regatta. Canada fielded both a men’s and woman’s single scull for the first time since Silken Lauman and Derek Porter cruised Olympic waters in the ’90s.

This regatta, Carling Zeeman and Trevor Jones, had noticeable blasts in the last 300 meters of each race. Both scullers placed at the top of their ‘B’ finals. Watch for Jones in Paris 2024.

WATCH l Canada’s women’s eight rowing crew wins gold:

Canada’s women’s eight crew captured gold on the final day of Olympic rowing in Tokyo on Friday, winning the event for the first time in 29 years. 11:06

Canadian rowers paid homage to the late Kathleen Heddle, who won gold in the pair and eight in Barcelona and the double in Atlanta.

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“When we heard thunder, when we were sitting on the starting line, we knew: ‘That’s Kathleen,'” coxswain Kirsten Kit said.

Both the women’s double and men’s pair made the ‘A’ final, with the men’s pair having the most dramatic progression. When the Dutch pair missed a stroke in the final sprint, the Canadian pair of Langerfled and McCabe took full advantage and qualified for the Olympic final by 0.42 seconds.

The men’s pair made a bold and early push in the final but missed the bronze by 0.55 seconds.

Filmer and Janssens captivated a nation with their performance in the women’s pair. They blasted off the start and took an early lead in this gutsy race, and laid it all on the line to hold onto the bronze. Both fought through coaching challenges, and while Janssens managed rib injuries, Filmer battled with clinical depression.

When asked how they felt after the race?

“It’s been a hard year,” Janssens said. Filmer nodded along, both with tears in their eyes.

Both the men’s and women’s lightweight doubles fought valiantly through a deep and competitive field to place in the B-Finals. The men’s and women’s fours also left their marks on the water. Tokyo was the first time the women’s four had raced at the Olympics since 1992, when Canada brought home the Gold.

WATCH l Canada’s golden rowers hope to inspire new generation:

Kasia Gruchalla-Wesierski, Kristen Kit and Avalon Wasteneys joined Tokyo Today to discuss their gold medal win in women’s eight rowing. 8:24

So, what’s next for these athletes and the sport in Canada?

First, let’s hope that we can use the windfall of our Canadian champions to invest more into university rowing, recreational rowing and public high school rowing programs. Second, we must continue to model our sports development after one of the most prosperous countries at this Olympic regatta — New Zealand.

Three-time Olympic medallist from New Zealand, and gold-medal winner in the Men’s Eight at Tokyo 2020, Hamish Bond, said it best.

“It takes an army to build a pyramid, and today we get to stand at the top.”

Canada’s Olympic regatta results

Men’s Single – Trevor Jones – 9th place

Women’s Single – Carling Zeeman- 8th place

Women’s Double – Jessica Sevick & Gabrielle Smith – 6th place

Women’s Pair – Caileigh Filmer & Hillary Janssens – Bronze

Men’s Pair – Kai Langerfeld & Conlin McCabe – 4th place

Lightweight Women’s Double – Jennifer Casson & Jill Moffatt – 12th place

Lightweight Men’s Double – Patrick Keane & Maxwell Lattimer – 10th place

Women’s Four – Stephanie Grauer, Nicole Hare, Jennifer Martins, Kristina Walker – 10th place

Men’s Four – Jakub Bucaek, Will Crothers, Luke Gadsdon & Gavin Stone – 8th place

Women’s Eight – Susanne Grainger, Kasia Gruchalla-Wesierski, Kristen Kit, Madison Mailey, Sydney Payne, Andrea Proske, Lisa Roman, Christine Roper & Avalon Wasteneys – Gold

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