The Canadian women put together two gutsy, gritty performances to take home the sole podium fulfillments from this year’s World Rowing Championships.
Caileigh Filmer and Hillary Janssens took a hard-earned gold in the Women’s Pair early in the competition, and the Women’s Eight wrapped up silver on the final day of competition. The regatta ran this week from the 9th to the 16th in Plovdiv, Bulgaria.
Filmer and Janssens are having a stellar season. All year, they have chased down the reigning World Best Time holders in the Women’s Pair, Grace Prendergast and Kerri Gowler from New Zealand. The Kiwis were the reigning World Champions. Filmer and Janssens had come close second two months ago at World Cup III in Switzerland. After that event, the pair went to work on their final sprint, with the hopes they could reel in the competition in the closing meters.
Their attention to detail paid off. Halfway through the race, Filmer and Janssens had taken the lead, edging ahead of the black New Zealand boat. It was the Canadian’s final sprint that kept their lead alive as the Kiwis tried to wheel them in.
Filmer and Janssens crossed the line in first at 6:50.67, with a new Canadian Best Time and only one second short of the World Best Time.
“We are still a very young team so we will keep working hard over the winter to ensure we keep getting better and faster!” Hillary Janssens told Rowing Canada.
This is the first season the pair has raced together, so it is expected they will only improve on their performances leading into Olympic qualifying year.
The week did not start as planned for the Women’s Eight. Despite a strong showing at the World Cup in June, a new line-up of Rebecca Zimmerman , Jennifer Martins, Susanne Grainger, Madison Mailey, Stephanie Grauer, Christine Roper, Sydney Payne, Lisa Roman and coxswain Kristen Kit seemed to create challenges as the eight came last in their opening heat.
They fought back in the repechage (or retry) heats to claim an A- final spot, but still qualified third behind the Netherlands and Romania. The women really needed to keep their heads and trust in their training heading into the A final on Sunday.
Their trust was rewarded. While the USA charged to a clear lead, the Canadian’s entered the second half in fourth position. The Canadian cox, Kristen Kit, a Bronze medalist at the Rio Para-Olympics, called the crew to move early with 600 meters to go. The ladies responded. They held on to narrowly edge out the Australia’s for second in 6:03.05, behind the dominant USA crew who won gold with a 6:00.97.
“We were a bit shaken after our heat but we still believed we were better than that [performance],” returning veteran Jennifer Martins told Rowing Canada. “We knew we had another gear that we hadn’t shown yet.”
While not reaching the podium, many of the women’s team had strong results. Gabby Smith and Andrea Proske won their heat and semi-finals, and raced to fifth place in their A final of the Women’s Double Sculls. While a stellar result for the new combination that has been taking the international stage by storm, they come away thirsty for a podium performance in the future. In the lightweight women’s single, Jill Moffatt battled through a packed event and several qualifying round to finish fifth. In the very competitive lightweight women’s double, Jennifer Cassons and Kate Haber won the B final.