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August 31, 2014

Both the sun and the rain decided to return on the eighth and final day of the World Rowing Championships in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Canada was only contesting two races today.  While the majority of the Canadian team partook in extracurricular activities last night in Amsterdam’s centrum, ten athletes were sleeping soundly in their beds in anticipation of their last foray on the Bosbaan.

Julien Bahain, racing the single, was finishing the week in the B-final.  Having spent the last decade rowing for France, the dual national started competing for Canada this season.

A bronze medalist in the quad at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, the sculler rowed the double at the London Olympics in 2012, and has spent this past racing season in the single.

With light tailwind conditions, Bahain flew out of the starting blocks, moving to the front of the field. Leading the pack for the first half, Belarus inched past the Canadian in the third quarter.

“The third 500 meters cost me a lot,” said an exhausted Bahain following the race, “it was all I could do to stay in the pack.”

Running out of steam in the last quarter, the Canadian sculler crossed the line in fourth. Belarus, Belgium and The Netherlands completed the top three positions. Bahain finishes the regatta 10th in the world. With 31 athletes in this event, it was the most entries of any boat class at this regatta.

The Canadian transplant moves to Victoria next month to start full time training with the men’s team.

Canada’s lone chance at a medal today came in the fast and furious eight.

These crews are swift and loud, fascinating onlookers as they roar past with a barking coxswain maintaining order and rhythm within the crew.

The Canadians have been trying to unseat the Americans in this event for the better part of the last decade. The Americans, whose competitive college system prioritizes the eight, show no signs of wanting to relinquish the title.

The last time Canada won a gold medal in this event was at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona.  The present Canadian crew of Cristy Nurse, Lisa Roman, Natalie Mastracci, Rosie DeBoef, Susanne Grainger, Christine Roper, Ashley Brzozowicz, Lauren Wilkinson and veteran coxswain Lesley Thompson-Willie were attempting to change that statistic.

Canada has slowly been making inroads with their southern neighbors.  The Canadians and the Americans, each in their respective preliminary races at the beginning of the week, clocked the exact same time, setting the stage for a hotly contested North American final.

Conditions had changed slightly by the time the eights were getting ready to race.  A challenging cross-tail wind was now blowing down the course.

“It was really swirly out there,” said London silver medalist Ashley Brzozowicz, referring to the wind conditions, “it was tough.”

The Canadians got off to a good start but by the 500 meter marker had already fallen back to a fast charging American crew.  At the halfway mark the United States had increased their lead, only to increase it even more by the ¾ marker.

Despite a sprint, Canada was unable to make up the deficit and crossed the line in second, once again behind the Americans.  China crossed the line third to pick up the bronze.

The Canadians were clearly emotional while waiting for their medal ceremony to begin.

“We all believed right to the line that there was a possibility that we could do it,” said Mastracci, while simultaneously smiling and wiping away tears. “We are going to go back to the drawing board and keep training, that’s what we do. We don’t give up.”

Wilkinson, who sets the rhythm in the boat, supported her teammate’s sentiments, “It’s not what we wanted, but we fought hard. We are going to go home and train, there is still a lot of speed to be gained.”

Expectations were high from these athletes, as evidenced by the post race outpouring of emotion from the crew.  However a silver medal at the World Championships is no small feat, something that will be better appreciated with a bit of time.

Canada ended the weeklong regatta with 2 silver medals; today’s women’s eight, and yesterday’s lightweight women’s double.

The athletes will now have a brief respite from training before returning to their respective centers to resume preparations for the 2015 season.

And as the Bosbaan now sits empty, it is hard to believe that it was one week ago today that this all emcompasing quest for medals began. The world’s rowers came to Amsterdam to push themselves against one another, to test themselves against the elements, and to pursue glory.

The Championships have borne witness to heartbreak in defeat and to elation in victory.  From the athletes, to their families and fans, relief and gratitude have been shared, despair and agony endured.  Every emotion under the sun (and rain) has been felt and expressed. Sometimes the favorites have vanquished, and occasionally the underdog has conquered. But one thing is certain. A new collection of champions has been crowned, and another page in history has been recorded.

And so wraps up another summer rowing season.

Congratulations to the all the athletes who competed this year.  

Thank you Amsterdam.  Dank Je Wel.


Douglas Vandor

Communications and Media Relations Assistant | Adjoint aux Communications et aux Relations avec les médias

Rowing Canada Aviron

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