Rowing finishes 2021 strong with seven medals at Nationals

Queen’s men and women finish fourth overall, capture 4 silver and 3 bronze medals

The Gaels Rowed their boats to a slew of podiums last weekend.
Credit: 
Supplied by Athletics and Recreation
The rowing team returned from the Canadian University Rowing Championship with an impressive medal haul, one that reflected their 2021 campaign as a whole.
 
Crews from across the country gathered in Welland, Ont. for the National Championships on Nov. 6 and 7. Over the course of the weekend, Queen’s captured 7 medals — 4 silver and 3 bronze — and in overall final point standings, the men and women both clinched fourth place.
 
Head coach Rami Maassarani sat down with The Journal to discuss the team’s strong performance and how it bodes for the  future of the program.
 
“[I’m] really happy with how the team performed, really proud of all of them. The results kind of exceeded our expectations,” he said.
 
“This time, we really turned around and went above and beyond in certain events.”
 
Fifth-year Gavin Stone and third-year Andrew Hubbard, both won silver in their respective races—the Men’s Open single and Men’s Lightweight single. Third-year Basil Jancso-Szabo and second-year Robert Bryden captured silver in the men’s Open 2-, and third-years Danica Vansgaard and Bianca Hill earned bronze in the women’s Lightweight 2X.
 
The women’s lightweight crew of fifth-year Lucy Lu, first-year Isabelle Ngo, and second-years Gillian Jansen, Jesse Stephenson, and Aliki Karanikas, captured silver in the lightweight 4X.
 
In the Open eight (8+), both the men’s and women’s crews were on the podium with third place finishes. It was the first time in 15 years that Queen’s had medaled in this event, and it was one of the weekend’s special moments.
 
“Getting on the podium on the national level hasn’t happened in my time at Queen’s both as as an athlete and a coach,” Maassarani said. “So, very special to see that happen again.”
 
“With [the women’s Open eight] being the last race of the regatta, [it] was a perfect way to close off the season.”
 
Another standout race was the women’s lightweight 4X, where the young Queen’s crew beat out a very experienced UBC team to walk home with silver medals.
 
“That was fantastic to see all their hard work paying off, considering how young of a crew they were,” Maassarani said.
 
The team improved on their run during the 2019 Championship, where they came away with four silver medals. For Maassarani, that’s a sign the program is moving in a positive direction.
 
“Everyone walked away from the National Championship with medal […] I haven’t seen that happen in my time coaching here,” he said. “That’s certainly special in its own way.”
 
Maassarani applauded the commitment and sacrifice of his athletes to turn it up a notch in the last two weeks of the season, rigorously preparing for the fiercer competition of the national stage.
 
“We do our final preparation and just do everything to the best of our ability so that we can find every last little bit of speed as possible going into the National Championships,” he said.
 
“A lot of those races did come down to tenths of a second […] so every single moment of preparation counts, and every single stroke counts in the lead up.”
 
For Maaassarani, the Gael’s performance proved the effectiveness of the program’s unique training approach—becoming technically proficient in smaller boats and translating this to the bigger boats.
 
“We’ve demonstrated that the way we do things works. It’s different than other schools and it’s not for everybody, but the type of rowers we’re hoping to attract are taking notice.”
 
When asked about where the program stands at the end of his final season as head coach, Maassarani was optimistic. Handing over his duties to Katie Bruggeling next season, he’s assured the future bodes well for the Gaels.
 
“The program is in extremely good hands. I’m quite comfortable with where the program is now, and where it’s going forward.”
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