By Kenn Oliver
The Telegram—Sherbrooke, Que.
Newfoundland and Labrador has a rowing contingent of 25 athletes at the Canada Summer Games in Sherbrooke, Que., this week, and while the province is competing in every discipline on Lac Magog, a huge medal haul isn’t expected.
In fact, after Tuesday’s heats and repechages, only Newfoundland’s women’s eights had secured a spot in a final.
Still , there’s a quiet confidence the team can land on the podium in some events.
“We’re definitely a contender for a medal in certain boats,” says Kiersten Van Gulick, one of the team’s coaches along with Paul Power, Ben Colbourne and Zach Meaney.
“I would say out biggest boats, our eights, will probably have the best chance, and we’re hoping our fours will do fairly well as well.”
Eighteen members of the team competed in last week’s Royal St. John’s Regatta, including the six girls — Megan Fitzgerald, Kirsten McKay, Emily Peacock, Moran Walsh, Stephanie Graham and Anne Henley — who claimed the ladies’ championship race.
Henley, granddaughter of Regatta Hall of Famer Alec Henley, says competing in the fixed-seat races was great preparation for these Games.
“Time on the water is time on the water,” says the 16-year-old from St. John’s. “The technique is a little bit different, but it’s a lot of the same motions, so it’s extra practice and we weren’t gonna say no that.”
“A lot of teams here go at a really high rate, but we’re used to heavy fixed-seats boats, so we can row with power and we have that as an advantage over other crews who are maybe bigger but not used to pulling as much pressure.”
Twelve girls from Team NL rowed on derby day in St. John’s — the other six also comprised a team that finished fourth in the championship race. However, only six boys took part. Van Gulick says they limited the number of Canada Games male participants to avoid injury.
“With the guys, we didn’t have enough to create a second full crew and we didn’t want them rowing with someone else because there’s a lot of different styles in fixed seat. We didn’t want them to injure themselves with another coxswain or crew that didn’t know what they were doing with slide-seaters.”
Van Gulick, a 2009 Games rower in Prince Edward Island, says t the added exposure to a race environment also plays a factor in preparing the teams for events at the Games.
“It adds to our competition season, because we really only travel out of province three times for slide-seat regattas, but there’s three or four fixed-seat regatta’s in NL, so it beefs up our season.”
In addition to the Head of the Hooch Regatta in Tennessee, and a couple of events in Dartmouth, N.S., the team also took part in a test regatta at Lac Magog this July — picking up wins in the eights — and the Eastern Rowing Association regatta in Montreal last month.
“Montreal was definitely a better one to see where we placed against other provinces because more of Ontario’s teams were there.”
The women’s eight advanced to the finals third in their heat, then fourth in the repechage, or second-chance race.
The rest of Newfoundland’s rowers from Tuesday will instead advance to consolation finals and row for placing rather than medals.
However, there’s still a full day of heats and repechages today in various disciplines, including female singles, male and female doubles, male and female fours, male eights and female lightweight doubles. Thursday is an off day before finals begin Friday.
Tuesday’s results for NL rowers
Male single (Colin Pike)
5th in heat, and 5th in repechage
Male quad sculls (Luke Dyer, Colin Pike, Liam Robbins, Andrew Williams)
5th in heat, 4th in repechage
Female quad sculls (Sarah Ford, Abigail Fraser, Anna Henley, Maria Roach)
5th in heat, 5th in repechage
Male lightweight four (Alex Brandt, Charlie Price, Liam Robbins, Mitchell Thomas)
4th in heat, 4th in repechage
Male pair (Eric Hanna-Quinn, Frank Norris)
4th in heat, 4th in repechage
Female pair (Janelle Chafe, Maria Ellsworth)
3rd in heat, 5th in repechage