Podium performances

Rowing brings home silver and bronze at the provincial level

The rowing team returned from the OUA championships with two gold medals and a pair of overall podium finishes.

The Gaels matched their performance from last year’s event, as the women’s team captured the overall silver medal, while the men settled for bronze on Saturday in St. Catharines.

On the individual level, veteran rower and 2013 OUA Oarsman of the Year Matt Christie snagged the heavyweight men’s single gold, despite being lightweight size.

It was Christie’s second straight gold medal. He won the lightweight single race at last year’s provincial championships.

The women’s gold came from the heavyweight doubles team of Larkin Davenport-Huyer and first-year Milica Banic. The pair upset a duo from Western who were a favourite in the event.

“Overall, I couldn’t be more proud of our team,” said head coach John Armitage. “Everybody rowed up to their potential and as coaches that’s all we can ask of our athletes.”

The men’s team earned a total of 201 points to grab the bronze. The Brock Badgers won the event with 410 points and the Western Mustangs finished second with 372.

The women earned 326 points, below Western’s 532 but beating Brock’s 167.

The men’s heavyweight four and eight both won individual bronze medals. The lightweight four also finished in third place.

On the women’s side, the heavyweight eight and four both took home silver medals. The lightweight eight and four also finished in second place in their events, while the lightweight double finished third.

Armitage, who directly oversees the female heavyweights, recalled two memorable moments from the tournament.

The first was Jac Minnaar’s gritty performance as part of the women’s lightweight eight.

Halfway through the 2000m race, Minnaar’s oar caught a wave and her hand was momentarily caught against the side of the boat.

“She came up to me after the race and said ‘my finger is broken’,” Armitage said.

Sure enough, Minnaar’s middle finger was broken in two places. She’ll undergo surgery later this week.

Armitage also recalled the final seconds of the heavyweight women’s four race, where the Gaels were passed late by the Mustangs’ boat.

“The four was a heartbreaker – they led the entire race,” he said. “With just a few strokes left in the race and our crew leading, one of the oars got caught in one of the crusting whitecap waves. It stopped our boat and Western passed us just at the finish line.

“We’re an outdoor sport and these things happen,” Armitage added. “The girls were very upset and I told them how proud I was because they executed the race plan perfectly,” Armitage said.

Race day saw heavy winds, up to 35km per hour, forcing Armitage and the rowers to change up their tactics.

“Our race plan was to get ahead early because we knew it would be difficult to make a move later in the race because there was actual whitecaps,” he said.

This weekend the team will be in Victoria, B.C. to compete at the Canadian University Rowing Championships (CURC).

Only 12 male and 12 female rowers will make the trip, plus two coxswain. OUA competitions feature eight events for women and men, while the CURC has six.

The team will fly out tomorrow evening and train Thursday and Friday before competing over the weekend.

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