UVic, UBC rowers pair up to win world cham­pi­onship

Times Colonist - - Sports - CLEVE DHEEN­SAW cd­heen­saw@times­colonist.com

How’s this for hands across the strait?

The Univer­sity of Vic­to­ria and Univer­sity of Bri­tish Columbia have a spir­ited and longestab­lished ri­valry in sports. But UVic and UBC rowers com­bined Satur­day to de­liver a stun­ning gold medal for Canada in the women’s pair at the 2018 world row­ing cham­pi­onships in Plovdiv, Bul­garia.

The world ti­tle launches Vikes star Caileigh Filmer of Vic­to­ria and Thun­der­birds rower Hil­lary Janssens of Cloverdale as podium favourites for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Es­pe­cially since they rel­e­gated de­fend­ing world cham­pi­ons and world-record hold­ers Kerri Gowler and Grace Pren­der­gast from New Zealand to the sil­ver medal, with Spain third.

Filmer, a grad­u­ate of Mount Douglas Sec­ondary, and Janssens edged into the lead at the mid­way point of the 2,000-me­tre fi­nal and then held off a stiff Kiwi chal­lenge over the fi­nal 500 me­tres.

Filmer and Janssens were across in a Cana­dian best time of six min­utes, 50.67 sec­onds, which was just one sec­ond off Gowler and Pren­der­gast’s world record.

“It is such an amaz­ing feel­ing to fi­nally achieve ex­actly what we had been imag­in­ing — rac­ing against the world’s best and win­ning,” said Janssens, in a state­ment.

“We knew it would be tight with New Zealand. We put in a lot of work im­prov­ing our last 500 me­tres and knew we had it in us to row out in front.”

Com­mu­ni­ca­tion and trust are key in the pair, ex­plained Filmer, be­cause each per­son has one oar and is re­spon­si­ble for their side of the boat only. That is op­posed to the dou­ble, in which each rower has two oars, with each shar­ing equal re­spon­si­bil­ity for both sides of the boat.

“There is a lot of trust in the boat. That’s so im­por­tant in the pair,” noted Filmer.

“Both Hil­lary and I love work­ing with each other and com­mu­ni­cate re­ally eas­ily to each other. We are a very tech­ni­cal crew. We both have a sim­i­lar work ethic, so I think we com­ple­ment each other.”

Filmer, whose mother, He­lena, also rowed for UVic and whose un­cle, Bob Heyes, is Vic­to­ria Sham­rocks coach, made her Olympic de­but at 19 with a fifth place in the Cana­dian eight at the 2016 Rio Sum­mer Games. Filmer stroked Canada to eights gold last year at the world U-23 cham­pi­onships while Janssens helped sweep the Cana­dian se­nior eight to the sil­ver medal at the 2017 world cham­pi­onships in Sara­sota, Florida.

Their path seems set to Tokyo 2020 as a po­tent pair. It is highly un­likely Row­ing Canada would now sep­a­rate such a promis­ing Olympic medal con­tender, as Filmer and Janssens’ world ti­tle capped off a sum­mer that in­cluded gold and sil­ver medals in the Bel­grade and Lucerne World Cup re­gat­tas.

“We are still a very young team so we will keep work­ing hard over the win­ter [on Elk Lake] to en­sure we keep get­ting bet­ter and faster,” said Janssens.

An­other Vikes-Thun­der­birds col­lab­o­ra­tion, how­ever, didn’t fare as well in Plovdiv at the world cham­pi­onships. The Cana­dian men’s light­weight pair of St. Andrew’s Sec­ondary-grad Pa­trick Keane, from UVic, and Delta’s Maxwell Lat­timer of UBC, who have been fourth twice in World Cup re­gat­tas over the sum­mer, were the vic­tims of some bad luck in their con­tro­ver­sial semi­fi­nal race at the worlds that was af­fected by wind con­di­tions. Keane and Lat­timer set­tled for 15th place over­all, but showed over the course of the sum­mer there is con­sid­er­able po­ten­tial in the boat lead­ing to Tokyo 2020.

Canada had two fourth-place fin­ishes Satur­day in the men’s pair and Para mixed-cox four.

Canada has a chance for three medals on the last day of the world cham­pi­onships to­day, in­clud­ing the women’s dou­ble of Gabrielle Smith from Knowl­ton Row­ing Club and An­drea Proske from Vic­to­ria City Row­ing Club rac­ing their fi­nal. This newly cre­ated team has made some waves since win­ning the sil­ver medal at the World Cup event in Lucerne.

“We’ve in­creased our train­ing time sig­nif­i­cantly since Lucerne and that has def­i­nitely helped build our re­la­tion­ship and trust as a team,” Proske said.

The de­fend­ing world sil­ver­medal­list Cana­dian women’s eight — in­clud­ing Sydney Payne out of Brent­wood Col­lege and Rebecca Zimmerman from the UVic Vikes — are rac­ing in their fi­nal.

Canada en­tered the world cham­pi­onships af­ter win­ning four medals at the last World Cup in Lucerne. The re­build comes af­ter Cana­dian row­ing, which has won 26 Olympic medals since 1984, was held to the lone sil­ver medal in the 2016 Rio Olympics by the re­tired Vic­to­ria light­weight women’s dou­ble crewed by Lind­say Jen­ner­ich and Pa­tri­cia Obee.

“The team has the ball rolling. Ex­pec­ta­tions now are about get­ting into ‘A’ fi­nals and be­ing in the medal hunt,” said Filmer.

The re­tooled Cana­dian men’s eight, which has re­turned af­ter Row­ing Canada passed on the event at Rio 2016 be­cause of a lack of depth, will be a slower re­build un­der leg­endary for­mer Kiwi Olympic coach Dick Tonks, as the Canuck crew races to­day in the B fi­nal for sev­enth through 12th po­si­tions. The men’s eight is look­ing to even­tu­ally re­gain its heady place in the event to fol­low in the oar strokes of the Cana­dian crews that came out of Elk Lake to win Olympic gold medals at Los Angeles in 1984, Barcelona in 1992 and Bei­jing in 2008 and sil­ver at Lon­don in 2012. Conlin McCabe and Tim Schri­jver join fel­low Rio 2016 Olympic fours rower Kai Langer­feld of Parksville and coxswain Jane Gum­ley out of UVic in the re­booted Cana­dian eight.

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESSS

Caileigh Filmer, left, and Hil­lary Janssens cel­e­brate win­ning the fi­nal of the women’s pair event at the World Row­ing Cham­pi­onships in Plovdiv, Bul­garia, on Satur­day.

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