Team Canada women's eight crew bite their medalsPhoto by Leah Hennel/COC
Photo by Leah Hennel/COC

Belief in the crew has Canadian women’s eight celebrating Tokyo 2020 gold

“I just really believed in our boat.”

Coxswain Kristen Kit knew where credit was due for Canada winning its second ever Olympic gold medal in the women’s eight.

Coming together as a unified crew, Christine RoperLisa Roman, Kasia Gruchalla-Wesierski, Andrea Proske, Susanne Grainger,  Madison Mailey,  Sydney PayneAvalon Wasteneys and Kit had belief in each other, which allowed Kit to direct and the team to execute the perfect race.

“That belief was what informed my decisions during the race,” said Kit. “We had a plan, which got moved up slightly earlier than we had agreed upon but the women really believed in me. The strength of this crew shone through because every time I made a move call, they responded. Every time I made a call the bow surged.”

Women's eight crew rowing in race
Canadian rowers Lisa Roman Kasia Gruchalla-Wesierski, Christine Roper, Andrea Proske, Susanne Grainger, Madison Mailey, Sydney Payne, Avalon Wasteneys and Kristen Kit celebrate compete in Women’s Eight during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games on Friday, July 30, 2021. Photo by Leah Hennel/COC

READ: Team Canada women’s eight wins rowing gold at Tokyo 2020

The Canadian team had an extra race en route to the final, needing the repechage to qualify for the women’s eight final. As the repechage results showed, the crew actually welcomed the extra time and competition experience, as they rowed to a Canadian best-ever time of 5:53.73 in the repechage.

“Due to the lack of racing coming into the Olympics, we saw the repechage as an advantage because it was another opportunity to do a two-kilometre race and learn,” said Roper. “We pulled what we thought were our strengths and weaknesses from that race and pulled them into the final.”

  • Rowing crew celebrates win
  • Rowing crew celebrates win
  • Rowing crew celebrates win

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, no one in the crew had raced internationally in about two years before coming to Tokyo, since the eight finished fourth at the 2019 World Rowing Championships.

This is Canada’s first Olympic gold medal in any women’s rowing event since Atlanta 1996, when Team Canada Chef de Mission Marnie McBean and her longtime partner, Kathleen Heddle, won gold in the double sculls. Heddle passed away in January after a battle with cancer.

“We came out on this course today representing a legacy, Marnie, Kathleen,” Kit said. “Kathleen Heddle is no longer with us — she was with us on the start line.”

The last time Canada struck gold in the women’s eight was at Barcelona 1992 and this year’s Canadian crew decided that this was a good time to join them.

Terry Paul (coxswain of the 1992 Olympic gold medal-winning men’s eight) told me ‘Decide what colour the medal is from the 250 to the 500’ and that stayed in my brain today and the girls responded when I asked them,” concluded Kit.