London Community News
By Dave Feschuk
WINDSOR, ENGLAND—Canada’s women’s eight won an Olympic silver medal on Thursday, bowing by half a boat length to their longtime rivals from the United States on the Eton Dorney rowing course.
Racing in front of an estimated crowd of 30,000, the Canadians never really challenged the favoured U.S. boat. Canada finished 1.41 seconds behind the Americans to earn the Maple Leaf’s second rowing silver in as many days. The Netherlands won bronze.
The men’s eight used a memorable late-race surge to place second to Germany on Wednesday.
Canada’s women’s eight included coxswain Lesley Thompson-Willie and Ashley Brzozowicz of London, Ont., Montreal’s Andreanne Morin, Darcy Marquardt and Lauren Wilkinson of Vancouver, Regina’s Rachelle Viinberg, Thorold’s Natalie Mastracci, Winnipeg’s Janine Hanson and Krista Guloien of Port Moody, B.C.
Thompson-Willie, a 53-year-old teacher-librarian and former member of the Western University rowing team, has been a mainstay of Canada’s rowing program since she was named cox of the Canadian eight for the boycotted 1980 Moscow Games. Thursday saw her capture her fifth Olympic medal in a storied career that has seen her steer a Canadian shell at seven Games.
Certainly the U.S. was a formidable foe. The defending Olympic gold medallists has gone undefeated since winning the 2006 world championships. But Canada, which had finished second to the Americans at each of the past two world championships, had recently gained confidence that an upset could be in the offing. While the Canadians finished three seconds back of the U.S. in Beijing in 2008, by last summer’s world championships, where Canada won silver, they had narrowed the margin to 0.74 seconds. At their only pre-Olympic matchup this year, at a World Cup race in Lucerne in May, Canada was second to the U.S. by a scant three hundredths of a second. As Canadian stroke Andreanne Morin pointed out, that translated to a finish-line gap the size of a plum.
Alas, the U.S. left no doubt about their superiority on Thursday, opening up a lead of a full second after 500 metres and increasing the gap to 2.3 seconds at the 1,000-metre mark of the 2,000-metre race.
Related story: London well-represented on 2012 Olympic Women’s Eight rowing crew
Thursday began on a down note for the Canadian team. Another of its serious medal hopes, the lightweight women’s double of Lindsay Jennerich and Patricia Obee, was eliminated from podium contention with a fourth-place finish in its semifinal.
The double spent the past year plagued by acrimony. Jennerich was initially slated to compete here with Tracy Cameron, the 37-year-old two-time world champion. But Cameron abruptly resigned from the Olympic team in June citing a “toxic relationship” with her longtime partner. Obee, who won silver with Jennerich at last summer’s world championship when Cameron was nursing an injury, was the obvious replacement. But Jennerich and Obee, both from Victoria, never seemed to find their footing at these Games.
“It wasn’t ideal. But it’s what you make of it,” said Jennerich of the pre-Olympic drama, fighting back tears. “You can’t say that every other crew here had some perfect year. The Olympic gold medalists are going to have a near-perfect year, but it’s not a perfect year. I was happy with our coaches. I was happy with the teammates we train with. I was happy with everything about what we did together. And I don’t see what’s not perfect about that.”
Canada’s men’s four, touted as a “darkhorse” medal contender by Rowing Canada officials, also failed to advance to the gold-medal final on Thursday. The quartet—Montreal’s Derek O’Farrel, Vancouver’s Anthony Jacob, Kelowna’s William Dean and North Vancouver’s Michael Wilkinson – ended up fifth in its six-boat semifinal, more than four seconds off the pace of the third-place finish they needed to stay in the medal hunt.
Jacob called it a “bummer” and lamented the “four more years of hell” he’d be facing in his quest to pursue a medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics. If O’Farrell had a more difficult time looking into the future, perhaps it was too soon after the conclusion of a quest that ended before he’d hoped.
“It’s the worst feeling in the world,” O’Farrell said.
If an Olympic medal is always the culmination of an arduous journey, certainly some on the Canadian crew have been on the trail longer than others. Vancouver’s Darcy Marquardt had been to two previous Olympics and finished fourth both times. After the heartbreak in Beijing four years ago, when Canada’s eight faded late and, she took a break from training’s grind and got a job in the financial services business.
But the lure of another shot at stepping atop an Olympic podium – “unfinished business,” she called it – brought her back to a crew that also included Beijing eight holdovers Thompson-Willie, Morin and Brzozowicz.
On Thursday, they celebrated a long-awaited moment on the podium.
- Metroland News Service