Many of Canada’s top rowers were on hand last week to receive a sendoff from invited guests and dignitaries as they prepare to set off to the 2023 World Rowing Championships in Belgrade, Serbia.
They were at the Duncan Community Hall Thursday, near their training base on Vancouver Island and are headed to an event which runs Sept. 3-10, and is the first chance Team Canada will have to qualify for the Paris 2024 Olympics.
“The Canadian National Rowing Team is an exceptional blend of rising stars and seasoned veterans, forming a formidable roster that will proudly [don] the maple leaf on their oars and represent the nation with passion and dedication. This talented lineup includes nine rowers, making their World Rowing Championships debut for the nation, adding a new chapter to Canada’s rowing legacy,” said a Rowing Canada press release.
Of the 39 athletes, making up 10 crews, 15 have ties to British Columbia, either hailing from the province or rowing for a club or university in B.C.
Among those rowers is Ontario’s Sydney Payne, who spent her summers growing up on the Island, her Grade 12 year at Brentwood College School and has been training here with Team Canada since graduating from the University of California in 2019.
“It’s like my second home,” Payne said of training on Vancouver Island. “My grandparents live up-Island, a lot of my family is scattered around the Island.”
She made her Olympic debut in Tokyo in 2020, rowing to gold with the Canadian Women’s Coxed Eight.
The goal is to make it back to the Olympic stage.
“This World Championship is a little different because the goal is not personal for my own ego, it’s for the team,” Payne said at the sendoff event Thursday afternoon. “We want to get as many seats across the line so that as many people on our team can go to the Olympics next year and try to go for that.”
It’s the first of two qualifiers for the 2024 Paris Games.
“There is another chance next year to qualify for the Olympics but hopefully we deal with that this year and then we don’t have to worry about next year,” she said.
Joining Payne on Team Canada from Vancouver Island is Avalon Wasteneys of Campbell River. The University of Victoria graduate also made her Olympic debut winning gold in Tokyo.
Wasteneys and Payne are rowing in the Women’s Coxed Eight with B.C.-born Cassidy Deane, Kirsten Edwards, and Alexis Cronk, and Ontario’s Morgan Rosts, Kristin Kit, and Alberta’s Kasia Gruchalla-Wesierski, and Jessica Sevick.
The Men’s Coxed Eight includes B.C.’s Liam Keane, and Joel Cullen, Alberta’s Cutris Ames, and Ontario’s Will Crothers, Jakub Buczek, Gavin Stone, Cody Bailey, Ryan Clegg and Laura Court.
The Women’s Coxless Pair are B.C.’s Caileigh Filmer and Ontario’s Maya Meschkuleit while the Men’s Coxless Pair includes Ontario’s Josh King and Luke Gadsdon.
The Women’s Coxless Four features B.C.’s Piper Battersby and Ontario rowers Rebecca Zimmerman, Kristen Siermachesky, and Kristina Walker.
The Men’s Quadruple Scull includes Ontario’s Daniel De Groot and Steven Rosts, Quebec’s Terek Been, and South African-born Liam Smit.
Representing Canada in the Women’s Quadruple Scull are Ontario’s Shannon Kennedy, Grace VandenBroek, Carling Zeeman, and Elisa Bolinger.
B.C.’s Katie Clark and Quebec’s Marilou Duvernay-Tardif will row in the Women’s Double Scull event while the Ontario duo of Jill Moffat and Jennifer Casson will row in the Women’s Lightweight Double Scull event.
Rounding out the team, Ontario’s Trevor Jones will take to the water in the Men’s Single Scull race.
“Among the crews, the women’s eight stands out, following their impressive silver medal finish at World Cup III in Lucerne, Switzerland in early July,” said Rowing Canada. “They are expected to be strong contenders in the hotly contested Women’s Eights field. Meanwhile, the Men’s Eight continues to build momentum after their sixth-place finish at World Cup III, aiming to make a splash at the upcoming Championships.”