Vikes women's rower Rebecca Zimmerman RCA Excellence Awards (Toronto, Ont.)

VICTORIA – The University of Victoria Vikes had a strong representation among those acknowledged at the Jan. 27 Rowing Canada Excellence Awards hosted in Toronto. Recently graduated Vikes women’s rower Rebecca Zimmerman was named RCA Senior Athlete of the Year, while three Vikes staff members were recognized with long service awards.

Zimmerman stroked the Canadian senior women’s eight to a silver medal at the 2017 World Championships in her first year as a senior national team athlete.

“She brought a calmness to the eight,” Vikes head coach Rick Crawley described about Zimmerman’s  impact. “She made them row longer and more relaxed and the rhythm was good. She is relentless.”

The Toronto native and social sciences major competed for the Vikes women’s rowing program for five seasons from 2012 to 2017. She guided the Vikes to a 2015 Brown Cup eights victory against UBC and was a strong part of the pair and eight crews through multiple Canadian University Rowing Championships.

“I was choked, really proud and almost crying because I was so happy for her,” said Crawley about witnessing, in person, his most recently graduated captain being highlighted. “She is an athlete at UVic that has been solid for us.”

Olympian Jennifer Walinga, mother of current rowing freshman Imogen White, presented the award to Zimmerman. Walinga and Zimmerman both share the fact that Crawley has coached them. Crawley coached Walinga in her national team days.

“It’s pretty phenomenal,” remarked Crawley about Zimmerman’s achievements. “She graduates from UVic and then by the summer she is stroking the Canadian eight to a silver medal in a race that had they maybe started their spring a little earlier they might have won. They were coming on the Romanians who barely held on. They beat Canada by 1.1 seconds I think which is less than the length of a deck.”

Long time Vikes assistant coach Alan Roaf was also honoured that evening and was highlighted for his 55 years of long service.

“Alan was my coach when I rowed so it is kind of a full circle for me when you think about it,” said Crawley about his current Vikes assistant coach Roaf who coached him at Burnaby Lake in his youth. “Alan has 55 years of pretty impressive service at various levels of the sport. He was the CEO of Rowing Canada. He was the head of our coaching school here and he’s coached with me here at UVic for years.”

In addition to Zimmerman and Roaf, current Vikes men’s rowing head coach Aalbert Van Schothorst was recognized for 15 years of long service, while Vikes associate director, sport, and also former Vikes rower James Keogh was honoured for 30 years.

“It’s pretty awesome to see,” added Crawley on the number of UVic connected people honoured at the Rowing Canada Excellence Awards. “There are lots of other people that were (at the event) that are from UVic and are in leadership roles within rowing. Alex Marchuk, a former Vike who is now coaching at Calgary, was there on Saturday and she was the one who went to help me go recruit Becca. We got a photo together at the end which was really special.”

It was a full circle event for the Vikes rowing program that celebrated what is likely the start of an incredible national team career for Zimmerman but also the contributions of several long-time contributing leaders in the rowing community.