Wind blows NRC semi-finals off course on Day 2

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A men’s singles race on Day 2 of the National Rowing Chamionships in St. Catharines.

 

Martindale Pond in St. Catharines started off Friday as a hospitable host to National Rowing Championship athletes. 

But as the wind picked up in the afternoon, the Royal Canadian Henley Rowing Course became noticeably less cordial. That was reflected in the race times clocked and tactics taken by athletes who vied for a spot in Saturday’s A/B finals.

“You had to be ready for anything at any point,” said senior Kerry Shaffer, who rowed to a second-pace finish with a time of 8:21.28 before boats were called off the water around 4:30 p.m. EDT.

The Welland native, who isn’t unfamiliar with the Henley’s challenges, clinched a spot in the women’s singles A final by taking advantage of the water when she could and limiting bad strokes in the toughest stretches of the 2,000-metre course.

Now Shaffer is getting familiar with her competition in tomorrow’s race, and it has heightened in the past year, she notes. Thanks to coaches and training, the quality of sculling has improved at the national level, Schaffer explained.

“It’s going to be tough,” she said. “I’m racing against girls I’ve raced at home all the time and I know what they’re capable of, but I also know what I’m capable of and I’m confident in those things. But there’s new blood in there and that’s exciting for sculling in Canada.”

Friday’s conditions proved to be some of the roughest that National Team member Rob Gibson has experienced. The Olympian recalled similar circumstances during last summer’s Pan Am competitions, also held in St. Catharines. That experience worked to his benefit today as he rowed to a first place finish in 7:50.42.

“I think it really had an effect on the outcome of the races, especially those last races,” Gibson said. “It really was a case of those who made a minimum of mistakes coming out on top, and that’s what happened.”

B.C. rowers Caileigh Filmer and Hillary Janssens showed the wind who was boss by winning the U23 women’s pairs in 7:34.09 before racing was suspended Friday. 

Winning isn’t new to the duo, who were part of the silver medal-winning women’s four team at the U23 World Championships in Bulgaria last July. Going up against National Team rowers in Saturday’s A final isn’t the usual for them, however.

Still, they’re unfazed.

“They’re experienced racers in pairs and eights, there are a couple of Olympians in there so it should be fun,” said Janssens, who hails from Cloverdale, B.C. 

“We’re sticking to our plan and what we do our best, so we’re trying to go out there and row as long as possible, keeping a solid rhythm,” added Victoria native Filmer.

Racing resumes Saturday at 8 a.m. with para finals. The eight remaining A/B semi-finals start at 8:30 a.m., and the A/B finals are set for 10:30 a.m.

The National Rowing Championships begin the last and most important ten months of the quadrennial, and will be the first of many selection events for the 2016 Olympics in Rio held throughout the year. Typically held in November, these championships are held earlier this year to allow the athletes more time to prepare for the 2016 Summer Games.

They wrap up Saturday at the Royal Canadian Henley Rowing Course in St. Catharines with the A/B finals, followed by a celebratory barbecue and medal presentation at 11:20 a.m.

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