Canada came away from the 2015 World Rowing Championships in Aiguebelette, France with one medal and Olympic berths in six events.
The women’s eight were the only Canadian crew able to earn both, taking the bronze medal behind the United States (who remain unbeaten in the event since 2006) and New Zealand (winning their first ever world championship medal in the event).
The crew of Lisa Roman, Cristy Nurse, Jennifer Martins, Ashley Brzozowicz, Christine Roper, Susanne Grainger, Natalie Mastracci, Lauren Wilkenson and Lesley Thompson-Willie sat in fourth place for the first half of the race, just ahead of the Kiwis, before both boats made a move to get past Great Britain and onto the podium. Canada was beaten for silver by just half a second.
“It’s a close race, which is very positive for women’s rowing,” Thompson-Willie told World Rowing. “We’ve had a good race today, we can’t complain about bronze.”
These are the fifth straight world championships at which the Canadian women’s eight has won a medal, to go along with the Olympic silver from London 2012. For five-time Olympic medallist Thompson-Willie, it was her 10th career world championship medal.
Nurse and Martins were pulling double duty in Aiguebelette, also racing in the pair. They finished sixth in that event a day earlier, which was still enough for an Olympic spot.
A couple of crews came oh so close to the podium with their fourth place finishes on Saturday.
In the women’s lightweight double sculls, Lindsay Jennerich and Patricia Obee placed behind crews from New Zealand, Great Britain and South Africa, but still qualified Canada for Rio 2016. Last year’s world silver medallists were in sixth place until the three-quarter mark and despite being the fastest boat in the final 500m, there just wasn’t enough room left to get back on the podium. There were still positives to take away. They had been the fastest qualifiers from the semifinals and achieved a much better result than at their last international race, the World Cup in Lucerne, where they finished 14th.
“We are a quality crew and I know we can win in Rio,” said Jennerich. “We must have a strategic plan and put together a solid year of training. Then we will be able to perform to our full potential.”
The men’s four, featuring Olympic silver medallists Will Crothers and Conlin McCabe in a boat with Tim Schrijver and Kai Langerfeld, also just missed the podium. In bronze medal position through the 1500m mark, they faded in the last quarter to be passed by Great Britain, a traditional powerhouse in the event who has won the last four Olympic gold medals. Canada lost the bronze by just 1.12 seconds.
“It’s frustrating,” said Langerfeld. “This wasn’t our best race. It felt like we were fighting each other a bit out there. We weren’t responding as a unit to Will’s calls. We have to remember that the goal is Rio and that remains our focus. The crew is moving in the right direction and we are looking forward to finding those extra seconds in the next 12 months.”
Carling Zeeman had already locked up Canada’s first Olympic berth in the women’s single sculls since Sydney 2000 just by advancing to the A final. A world U23 medallist in the event as recently as 2012 and 2013, she finished sixth in a field featuring world and Olympic medallists.
The men’s lightweight four of Maxwell Lattimer, Brendan Hodge, Nicolas Pratt and Eric Woelfl claimed the last of the 11 Olympic spots available in their event at this regatta with their fifth place finish in the B final.
There were a couple of other boats that weren’t so successful in their B finals. The men’s quad sculls crew of Matthew Buie, Julien Bahain, Will Dean and Rob Gibson needed to be in the top two to earn Olympic qualification. They got off to a quick start, holding onto that second spot for the first half of the race but they couldn’t hold the pace, ultimately crossing in fifth place.
“We had high expectations coming to France,” said Gibson, an Olympic medallist in the eight in 2012. “To be honest, I am sort of stunned right now. I know we have what it takes to win a medal in Rio. We will have to book our tickets to the Games at the qualifier next year.”
The Final Olympic Qualification Regatta will take place in Lucerne, Switzerland on May 22-25, 2016.