London Community News
By Paul Everest/London Community News/Twitter: @PaulEverest
The athletes who will make up Canada’s Women’s Eight rowing team at the Summer Olympics next month were revealed in London Thursday (June 28) alongside a new stamp honouring their sport.
Of the 10 women who greeted media, fellow athletes and members of the public at the Fanshawe Conservation Centre rowing club—one of two Olympic training centres for rowers in Canada— two call London home.
Lesley Thompson-Willie— one of only three Canadian women with four Olympic medals, including a gold in 1992— is joining her eighth Olympic rowing team as coxswain.
Having competed for Canada between 1980 and 2000, Thompson-Willie retired after the 2000 Sydney Summer Olympics, but returned to the national team in 2006.
Over the course of her career, she competed in 16 World Championship rowing events where she won one gold, three silver and four bronze medals.
A graduate of Western University, Thompson-Willie was named to the Canada Olympics Hall of Fame in 1994.
She is looking to become the first Canadian athlete to win medals in five different Olympic Games.
Despite going to the Olympics seven times before, Thompson-Willie said she is still excited to compete at the highest level of athleticism.
“Nothing about the Olympics is routine,” she said. “Every Olympics is different, every crew is different. Every experience is different.”
And she said her current rowing partners will be bringing a huge amount of talent across the pond next month.
“This is a super mix of youth, experience, determination, excellence. It’s a real honour to be in this crew.”
When asked how many more times she thinks she’ll be able to compete at the Olympics, Thompson-Willie said she was not thinking that far ahead.
“You have to recognize that, sometimes, not many opportunities come by when you’re in contention and this is one of them and I’m really looking forward to the race.”
For Ashley Brzozowicz, who is originally from Toronto but now calls London home, competing for Canada in England next month is her second time taking to the water at the Olympics, having competed at the 2008 Beijing games where she finished fourth in the Women’s Eight.
A five-time World Championship team member, Brzozowicz has won a pair of silver medals in the eights and a bronze in the 2002 Under-23 in the coxless fours in Italy.
She said the crew is pushing themselves hard during the final weeks of training in this home stretch leading up to the games.
“We just know that now every day really counts because they’re not that many days left to get ready and we’re just really focused on the goal and trying to get as much quality training in as we can before we leave for Europe.”
Brzozowicz said despite competing in Beijing four years ago, she has an open mind about what to expect in London when the crew hits the water at Dorney Lake, the Olympic rowing centre near Windsor.
“Beijing was my first games and I was told going into that that you can’t really prepare for an Olympics,” she said. “The experience is something that you can’t explain to someone else until you’ve been through it. I did feel that a bit.
“Most of our team has been to at least one, if not two, (Olympic) Games; in the case of Lesley this will be her eighth. So we have a lot of experience working for us.”
The challenge, she added, is the expectations on Canada’s Women’s Eight crew, given its recent performances.
“We’re two-time defending silver medalists. There’s a lot more attention and a lot more support on us going forward and we just want to use that to help us go faster."
The other members of the crew are Krista Guloien of Port Moody, B.C., Janine Hanson of Winnipeg, Darcy Marquardt of Richmond, B.C., Natalie Mastracci of Thorold, Andreanne Morin of Montreal, Cristy Nurse of Georgetown, Rachelle Viinberg of Regina and Lauren Wilkinson of North Vancouver.
The crew’s coaches are John Keogh and Alan Morrow, who both call London home.
On the other side of the country, at nearly the same time as the announcement of the Women’s Eight team, Rowing Canada Aviron also unveiled the men’s and lightweight crews who will compete for Canada at the London games.
To mark the occasion, Canada Post, in collaboration with the Canadian Olympic Committee and Rowing Canada Aviron, showed off a new stamp in London depicting an overhead view of a double-skull boat gliding over the water.
Illustrated by Keith Martin and designed by Kosta Tsetsekas and Mike Savage of Signals Design, four million of the stamps are available in books of 10.
“This stamp will help remind Canadians to cheer on rowers and other Olympic athletes as they compete in London this summer,” said Klaus Madinger, who works in commercial sales for Canada Post, during the unveiling.