Excellent conditions greeted the rowers today at the Rotsee course in Lucerne, Switzerland, for the Rowing World Cup, which concluded with a gold-medal performance by the Canadian men's eight. Canada also won a gold in the men's pair and two bronze medals today.
"We had some promising and exciting results today, but there's also a lot of work that needs to be done in the next couple of months," said Rowing Canada Aviron's VP High Performance, Phil Monckton. "Several of our crews have yet to qualify for the Olympics and not all rowing nations were here in Lucerne. We also realize that everyone raises their game in an Olympic year; so we're cautiously optimistic and are focused on Games preparation."
The highly anticipated men's eight race finished with Canada, the reigning World Champion, winning in a time of 5:31.89, emerging rowing powerhouse China was second in 5:34.96, with Great Britain getting bronze in 5:35.87.
"We would have liked to be a second faster," said men's eight coach, Mike Spracklen, "but I know they are capable of it and now they will just work harder when they return to Canada to prepare for the Olympics."
The eight is Brian Price of Belleville, Ont., Kyle Hamilton of Richmond, B.C., Adam Kreek of London, Ont., Dominic Seiterle of Victoria, B.C., Malcolm Howard of Victoria, B.C., Jake Wetzel of Saskatoon, Sask., Andrew Byrnes of Toronto, Ont., Ben Rutledge of Cranbrook, BC, and Kevin Light of Sidney, B.C.
"This situation is not new to us," said Rutledge, who was in the boat in 2004 when the men won the Lucerne World Cup before the Olympics, but didn't medal at the Games. "We know now that the final goal is the Olympics, and we treated this as a warm-up, not a complete victory."
The men's pair was also golden today. Scott Frandsen of Kelowna, B.C. and Dave Calder of Victoria had a strong start, moving away from the pack by the 500-metre mark. They maintained their lead. A late challenge by New Zealand came up short and Canada took the race in 6:29.97, New Zealand picked up a silver medal with the time of 6:30.54 and Australia, 2007 World Champions Drew Ginn and Duncan Free, ended up in third in 6:33.23.
"These crews are strong and the Aussies are the class of the field - we expect more from them in two months," said Frandsen. "We still have to qualify (for the Olympics), so that's our next focus."
The lightweight women's double of Melanie Kok of St. Catharines, Ont. and Tracy Cameron of Shubenacadie, N.S. were bronze medallists in 6:55.86. China won this event - the only Olympic boat class for lightweight women - in 6:53.62 and the Netherlands overtook Canada by fractions of a second to finish in 6:55.50.
"Our goal was just to row our own race and really attack it," said Kok. "The Dutch crew still has to qualify for the Olympics (Canada has already secured a spot in this event), so they had a point to prove today." This crew had a personal best time today.
The women's eight also picked up a bronze - the U.S., last year's World Champions, were first in 6:07.49, Australia was second in 6:07.91 and Canada followed closely in 6:08.23.
The women's eight is Jane Rumball of Fredericton, N.B., Darcy Marquardt of Richmond, BC, Buffy Williams of St. Catharines, Ont., Romina Stefancic of Victoria, BC, Ashley Brzozowicz of Toronto, Ont., Sarah Bonikowsky of Orangeville, Ont., Andréanne Morin of Montreal, Que., Heather Mandoli of Kelowna, B.C., and Lesley Thompson-Willie of London, Ont.
For Romina Stefancic, originally from Slovenia and a 2004 Olympian for Canada, this was her first World podium appearance for Canada. "It feels great, and I've waited a long time for this."
The men's quad of Gabe Bergen of 100 Mile House, B.C., Robert Weitemeyer of Coquitlam, B.C., Steve Van Knotsenburg of Beamsville, Ont., and James Dunaway of Duncan, B.C. was sixth today in 6:00.26. The quad's next challenge is Olympic qualification.
The lightweight men's double of Douglas Vandor of Dewittville, Que. and Cameron Sylvester of Caledon, Ont. finished second in the B final in 6:30.85, just behind Germany (6:30.04). Vandor and Sylvester place eighth overall.
The women's pair entry for Canada (Sabrina Kolker of West Vancouver, B.C. and Kaylan Vander Schilden of Victoria, B.C.) was third in the B final, to finish ninth overall.
The men's four was also third in the B final, and this crew's next stop will be Poznan, Poland for the Olympic Qualification regatta. This year's four is Peter Dembicki of West Vancouver, B.C., Robert Gibson of Kingston, Ont., Kristopher "Kip" McDaniel of Cobble Hill, B.C., and Jamie Faris of Fort Saskatchewan, Alta.
The lightweight men's four had a disappointing 12th overall showing at this regatta. Members of this boat are Iain Brambell of Victoria, BC, Liam Parsons of Thunder Bay, Ont., Jon Beare of Toronto, Ont., and Mike Lewis of Victoria, B.C.
Five Canadian boats will now attempt to qualify for the Olympics at an upcoming regatta in Poznan, Poland beginning on June 15.