Tokyo Olympics Day 7: Rosie MacLennan fourth in trampoline, Canadian women’s eight rowers win first gold since 1992; Oleksiak misses bronze by slimmest of margins

The latest Olympics news from Tokyo and around the world on Friday. Web links to longer stories if available:2:42 a.m. (Updated): Two-time gold medallist Rosie MacLennan has missed the podium in the women's trampoline at the Tokyo Olympics.The 32-year-old from Toronto finished fourth in the final with a score of 55.460, less than three-tenths of a point short of Britain's Bryony Page for bronze.Xueying Zhu and Lingling Liu, both of China, took gold and silver, respectively.1:46 a.m.: Canada has improved its chances of moving on to the quarterfinals in men’s volleyball with a much-needed win over Venezuela.Canada won Friday’s match in convincing fashion, taking all three sets to improve its record to 2-2 in preliminary play. That means Canada joins fellow Pool A teams Poland, Japan, Iran and Italy with two wins apiece. 1:35 a.m. (Updated): Canadian Rosie MacLennan qualifies in women’s trampoline, coming in fourth with a score of 104.435. She will move on to compete for a medal at 1:50 a.m. ET. 12:40 a.m.: The Canadian women’s rugby sevens team will not advance to the finals.Earlier Friday, a 31-0 loss to France at Tokyo’s Olympic Stadium meant the Canadian team needed to wait to find out if their 1-2 record on the group stage would qualify them for the next round. After a decisive 33-0 victory over Brazil in their opening match on Thursday morning, Canada was caught off guard by Fiji in its second contest, losing 26-12. Canada captured bronze in rugby sevens’ Olympic debut in Rio in 2016. 11:41 p.m.: Reigning BMX racing gold medallist Connor Fields of the United States has been carried off on a stretcher after crashing in the third semifinal heat at the Tokyo Olympics.Fields was fourth after his opening two heats and landed hard off a jump heading into the first turn in the third run. The 28-year-old from Las Vegas slammed into the turn and lay on the track as medical personnel rushed out to help him.Fields was attended to for several minutes before being carried away. He qualified for the finals, but will not be able to race.11:21 p.m.: Russia’s Evgeny Rylov has completed a backstroke sweep at the Tokyo Olympics.Rylov added the 200-meter backstroke title to his victory in the 100 back, winning with an Olympic-record time of 1 minute, 53.29 seconds.The silver went to American Ryan Murphy in 1:54.15, while Britain’s Luke Greenbank grabbed the bronze in 1:54.72. 11:12 p.m.: There was Olympic heartbreak for Melissa Bishop-Nriagu on the opening morning of track and field in Tokyo.The world silver medallist and Canadian record-holder finished fourth in her heat of the women’s 800 metres and didn’t advance to the semifinals. The 32-year-old from Eganville, Ont., ran two minutes 2.11 seconds, fading over the final 40 metres. Her Canadian record is 1:57.01.Canadians Madeleine Kelly (2:02.39) and Lindsey Butterworth (2:02.45) also didn’t move on. 10:43 p.m.: Canadian Drew Mechielsen came in third in the women’s cycling semifinals (Heat 1).10:35 p.m.: Back in 2016, when Penny Oleksiak was still a teenager and a legend both, her mother Alison showed that she knew her daughter. Oleksiak was on the way to a fourth medal, and everything that came after. Her mother foresaw a challenge. Her daughter needed to be a teenager. Even as an elite swimmer, she needed to live some of a teenager’s life.And after a crooked road to get here, in Tokyo she won her fifth career Olympic medal with silver in the 4x100 freestyle relay and then a sixth with bronze in the 200 free, to tie Canada’s all-time Olympic record. The Star’s Bruce Arthur writes from Tokyo: Penny Oleksiak’s push for a seventh medal comes up just short in 100-metre freestyle10:15 p.m.: Let’s just say Canada’s gold-medal victory in Friday’s women’s eight was beyond timely, writes Star columnist Dave Feschuk.In winning Canada’s last chance at a rowing medal at these Games, the crew didn’t only pull off an upset over the reigning world champions from New Zealand, which finished with silver almost a second behind the Canadians. It also ended one of the sport’s most impressive dynasties, knocking off the podium a United States program that had won three straight gold medals in the event.The latest from Dave Feschuk: Tokyo gold in women’s eight moves Canada past its rowing pains10:14 p.m. (Updated): Penny Oleksiak came in fourth in the women’s 100 m freestyle final with a time of 52.59 — setting a Canadian record, but still coming in just seven hundredths of a second behind bronze-medal winner Cate Campbell of Australia.Another Aussie, Emma McKeon, won gold with an Olympic record of 51.96 seconds, while Hong Kong’s Siobhan Haughey took silver.It’s a disappointing finish for Oleksiak, who took gold in the 100 m freestyle at the Rio Games in 2016. She had also been looking for her third medal in Tokyo and seventh of her career, which would make her Canada’s most decorated Olympian.The 21-year-old will have another shot at that title on Sunday when she races in the women’s 4 x 1

Tokyo Olympics Day 7: Rosie MacLennan fourth in trampoline, Canadian women’s eight rowers win first gold since 1992; Oleksiak misses bronze by slimmest of margins

The latest Olympics news from Tokyo and around the world on Friday. Web links to longer stories if available:

2:42 a.m. (Updated): Two-time gold medallist Rosie MacLennan has missed the podium in the women's trampoline at the Tokyo Olympics.

The 32-year-old from Toronto finished fourth in the final with a score of 55.460, less than three-tenths of a point short of Britain's Bryony Page for bronze.

Xueying Zhu and Lingling Liu, both of China, took gold and silver, respectively.

1:46 a.m.: Canada has improved its chances of moving on to the quarterfinals in men’s volleyball with a much-needed win over Venezuela.

Canada won Friday’s match in convincing fashion, taking all three sets to improve its record to 2-2 in preliminary play. That means Canada joins fellow Pool A teams Poland, Japan, Iran and Italy with two wins apiece.

1:35 a.m. (Updated): Canadian Rosie MacLennan qualifies in women’s trampoline, coming in fourth with a score of 104.435. She will move on to compete for a medal at 1:50 a.m. ET.

12:40 a.m.: The Canadian women’s rugby sevens team will not advance to the finals.

Earlier Friday, a 31-0 loss to France at Tokyo’s Olympic Stadium meant the Canadian team needed to wait to find out if their 1-2 record on the group stage would qualify them for the next round.

After a decisive 33-0 victory over Brazil in their opening match on Thursday morning, Canada was caught off guard by Fiji in its second contest, losing 26-12.

Canada captured bronze in rugby sevens’ Olympic debut in Rio in 2016.

11:41 p.m.: Reigning BMX racing gold medallist Connor Fields of the United States has been carried off on a stretcher after crashing in the third semifinal heat at the Tokyo Olympics.

Fields was fourth after his opening two heats and landed hard off a jump heading into the first turn in the third run. The 28-year-old from Las Vegas slammed into the turn and lay on the track as medical personnel rushed out to help him.

Fields was attended to for several minutes before being carried away. He qualified for the finals, but will not be able to race.

11:21 p.m.: Russia’s Evgeny Rylov has completed a backstroke sweep at the Tokyo Olympics.

Rylov added the 200-meter backstroke title to his victory in the 100 back, winning with an Olympic-record time of 1 minute, 53.29 seconds.

The silver went to American Ryan Murphy in 1:54.15, while Britain’s Luke Greenbank grabbed the bronze in 1:54.72.

11:12 p.m.: There was Olympic heartbreak for Melissa Bishop-Nriagu on the opening morning of track and field in Tokyo.

The world silver medallist and Canadian record-holder finished fourth in her heat of the women’s 800 metres and didn’t advance to the semifinals. The 32-year-old from Eganville, Ont., ran two minutes 2.11 seconds, fading over the final 40 metres. Her Canadian record is 1:57.01.

Canadians Madeleine Kelly (2:02.39) and Lindsey Butterworth (2:02.45) also didn’t move on.

10:43 p.m.: Canadian Drew Mechielsen came in third in the women’s cycling semifinals (Heat 1).

10:35 p.m.: Back in 2016, when Penny Oleksiak was still a teenager and a legend both, her mother Alison showed that she knew her daughter. Oleksiak was on the way to a fourth medal, and everything that came after. Her mother foresaw a challenge. Her daughter needed to be a teenager. Even as an elite swimmer, she needed to live some of a teenager’s life.

And after a crooked road to get here, in Tokyo she won her fifth career Olympic medal with silver in the 4x100 freestyle relay and then a sixth with bronze in the 200 free, to tie Canada’s all-time Olympic record.

The Star’s Bruce Arthur writes from Tokyo: Penny Oleksiak’s push for a seventh medal comes up just short in 100-metre freestyle

10:15 p.m.: Let’s just say Canada’s gold-medal victory in Friday’s women’s eight was beyond timely, writes Star columnist Dave Feschuk.

In winning Canada’s last chance at a rowing medal at these Games, the crew didn’t only pull off an upset over the reigning world champions from New Zealand, which finished with silver almost a second behind the Canadians. It also ended one of the sport’s most impressive dynasties, knocking off the podium a United States program that had won three straight gold medals in the event.

The latest from Dave Feschuk: Tokyo gold in women’s eight moves Canada past its rowing pains

10:14 p.m. (Updated): Penny Oleksiak came in fourth in the women’s 100 m freestyle final with a time of 52.59 — setting a Canadian record, but still coming in just seven hundredths of a second behind bronze-medal winner Cate Campbell of Australia.

Another Aussie, Emma McKeon, won gold with an Olympic record of 51.96 seconds, while Hong Kong’s Siobhan Haughey took silver.

It’s a disappointing finish for Oleksiak, who took gold in the 100 m freestyle at the Rio Games in 2016. She had also been looking for her third medal in Tokyo and seventh of her career, which would make her Canada’s most decorated Olympian.

The 21-year-old will have another shot at that title on Sunday when she races in the women’s 4 x 100-metre relay.

9:55 p.m.: Canada’s hopes of defending its bronze medal in women’s rugby sevens are in jeopardy after the team lost its second straight match at the Tokyo Olympics.

The Canadian squad looked overwhelmed from start to finish in a 31-0 loss to France at Tokyo’s Olympic Stadium on Friday.

After a decisive 33-0 victory over Brazil in their opening match on Thursday morning, Canada was caught off guard by Fiji in its second contest, losing 26-12.

9:20 p.m. (Updated): The Canadian women’s eight rowing crew has captured gold at the Tokyo Olympics.

The eight rowers crossed the line first in Friday’s final in a time of five minutes 59.13 seconds: Toronto’s Sydney Payne; Kristen Kit of St. Catharines, Ont.; Susanne Grainger and Christine Roper of London, Ont., Kasia Gruchalla-Wesierski of Calgary; Madison Mailey of Lions Bay, B.C.; Andrea Proske and Lisa Roman of Langley, B.C.; and Avalon Wasteneys, Campbell River, B.C. — reach the podium for Canada’s 11th overall.

New Zealand grabbed silver (6:00.04), while China took bronze (6:01.21).

Canada will leave the Tokyo Olympics with two rowing medals, after Victoria’s Caileigh Filmer and Hillary Janssens of Surrey, B.C., took bronze in Thursday’s women’s pair.

9:04 p.m.: In women’s rugby sevens, Canada lost to France 31-0. Canada (1-2) will have to wait for the remaining pool matches to conclude to see if they will advance to the quarterfinals.

8:40 p.m.: Patrick Moster, the sports director for Germany’s cycling program has been stripped of his duties and sent home one day after he repeatedly shouted a racial slur during a televised time trial at the Olympics, the country’s Olympic sports federation said Thursday.

7:30 p.m.: Videos of Suni Lee’s family reacting to the U.S. gymnast winning a gold medal in the Olympics all-around competition went viral on Twitter this week, with fellow Olympians, celebrities and viewers at home cheering alongside Lee’s joyful family.

7:15 p.m.: Brazilian gymnast Rebeca Andrade takes all-around silver at Tokyo Olympics. It is Brazil’s first medal of any colour in the all-around.

6:30 p.m.: Fiji’s second consecutive gold medal in rugby sevens may be more meaningful than its first.

That’s saying something, considering the team’s first win, at Rio 2016, meant so much that the country produced the world’s first $7 banknote to commemorate it, writes the Star’s Laura Armstrong in her newest Olympics roundup.

Here’s what else is in the news: Australian Jessica Fox uses a condom to fix her kayak; Justin Bieber gives Simone Biles kudos; and Chinese shooter Yang Qian has two gold medals (and a killer sense of style).

6:30 p.m.: Here are a few of the events that Team Canada is competing in tonight.

  • Rowing, women’s eights, 9:05 p.m. ET

  • Drew Mechielsen competes in the BMX racing semifinal, 9:15 p.m. ET

  • Defending champion Penny Oleksiak will compete in the 100-metre freestyle final, 10 p.m. ET. If she wins, she’ll become Canada’s most decorated Olympian.

  • Rosie MacLennan will compete in trampoline, starts at midnight ET

  • Runner Mohammed Ahmed will compete in the 10,000-metre final, 7:30 a.m. ET on Friday

6 p.m.: At the 1998 Olympic Games in Nagano, Star columnist Rosie DiManno had $10,000 cash, a phoney press pass and a last-minute bed at a heavenly country inn. The experience of Tokyo 2020 is nothing like the same — it couldn’t be, she writes.

The latest from Rosie DiManno in Tokyo: An Olympics in Japan can be wonderful (even if these Games aren’t)

5 p.m.: The 2020 Olympics are shaping up to be one of the hottest on record as daily highs regularly exceed 30C and humidity packs an extra punch.

Said Russian Olympic Committee tennis player Daniil Medvedev, during a Tuesday fixture: “I can finish the match, but I can die,” he told the chair umpire in front of cameras after being asked if he could continue playing.

Earlier in the week, Spanish tennis player Paula Badosa had to leave her quarterfinal match in a wheelchair. Last Friday, Russian archer Svetlana Gomboeva collapsed in the Tokyo heat during a qualifying round.

4 p.m.: Star columnist Rick Salutin writes: The distress experienced by US gymnast Simone Biles stems from a situation: Olympics culture in its 2021 version.

There’s a shabbiness to these games in particular: the issue isn’t just empty arenas, it’s a sense that they’re only being held to avoid financial losses and serve the egos and careers of pols and sportsocrats against the unmistakably expressed opposition of the host population.

The athletes feel real pain and deserve support and relief, but you don’t want to use mental healthification to let the source of that pain off the hook.

4 p.m.: On today’s episode of Tokyo Daily, Brendan Dunlop chats with the Star’s Dave Feschuk in Tokyo about the atmosphere of these Olympic Games, the success of Canadian women on the Olympic stage and what that might mean for funding and development going forward. And as track and field gets underway with a COVID scare, there are a few Canadian men looking to get on the podium in Tokyo.

3:30 p.m.: San Marino is considered the world’s oldest republic. On Thursday, it added another title that could one day become a trivia answer: the least populous nation to win an Olympic medal.

One can only imagine the celebration that Alessandra Perilli will receive when she returns to the independent nation of 34,000 people in the foothills of Italy’s Apennine Mountains after claiming bronze in women’s trap shooting.

12 p.m.: Bruce Arthur writes: Russia is winning, in more ways than one. Russians are here, wearing Russian colours, listening to Tchaikovsky on the podium rather than some generic Olympic hymn, and being called the Russian Olympic Committee by announcers and media alike; they were, under the terms of their very soft punishment for state-sponsored doping, supposed to only be called the ROC.

Russia pulled off the most comprehensive doping program in modern history, and the IOC tried very hard to let them off the hook. And it’s never been more clear that it worked.

The Star’s Bruce Arthur in Tokyo: Tokyo Olympics make clear Russia won in wake of state-sponsored doping scandal — and the IOC let them off the hook

Previously: American pole vaulter Sam Kendricks tests positive for COVID-19 and withdraws from Games; Mohammed Ahmed and Justyn Knight among the favourites for medals in distance running; Canadian rowers Caileigh Filmer and Hillary Janssens took bronze in women’s pair; Women’s basketball team defeats South Korea, 74-53; Swimmers just miss the podium in 4x200 freestyle relay, but Penny Oleksiak has another shot at becoming Canada’s most decorated Olympian ever.

For a full write-up of what you missed on Day 6 of the Tokyo Olympics, click here.

For full coverage of the Tokyo Olympics, click here.

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Dave Feschuk: Tokyo gold in women’s eight moves Canada past its rowing pains and it couldn’t have come at a better time

TOKYO—It’s called the Sea Forest Waterway, the venue for the Olympic rowing regatta at these postponed Games. And if the name evokes a certain image — perhaps an idyllic basin flanked by verdant foliage, which is the way it looks from some angles on the TV broadcast — it’s a little bit of false advertising.The “Sea” is out there somewhere, beyond the grey walls of the race course. But the portion of Tokyo Bay on which the world’s best oarsfolk came to sort out the medals this week is flanked by an industrial wasteland heavy on rusted metal and bleak concrete. As for the “Forest” — well, if you direct your gaze beyond the adjacent heavy-truck route and below the jets frequenting the commercial flight path overhead, yes, there are some trees.And speaking of not quite living up to expectations: For the second straight Olympics, Canada’s rowing crew came into the final day of competition desperately needing a big performance from its women’s eight to help redeem an otherwise underwhelming showing. Five years ago in Rio, the late heroics escaped the eight, which finished fifth to punctuate Canada’s disappointment.But as the members of the eight arrived at starting gate before Friday’s pivotal race, they convinced themselves they’d been sent a sign things would be different this time. The clouds were dark and threatening. Thunder loudly rumbled. Clearly, they told each other, it was Kathleen Heddle, the Canadian Olympic rowing legend who died in January at age 55, cheering them on from the beyond.“(When) the thunder was out. It was just a reminder that Kathleen was with us, and we’re the storm, and we’re going to bring it,” said Susanne Grainger, one of three holdovers from the Rio eight. “We had a moment as a boat to remember her and make sure we brought the amazing grace and grit she rowed with into our race. We definitely had her on our minds today.”With the program’s redemption in their hands and a legend’s spirit on their minds, maybe it was only fitting that Canada’s eight unfurled an unexpected lightning bolt of a timely victory that forever put them in Heddle’s rare Olympic company. In winning Canada’s last chance at a rowing gold at these Games, the crew didn’t only pull off an upset over the reigning world champions from New Zealand, which finished with silver almost a second behind the Canadians. It also ended one of the sport’s most impressive dynasties, knocking a United States program that had won three straight gold medal in the event off the podium. China won bronze. The United States, which would later follow up its fourth-place finish in the women’s eight with a fourth-place finish in the men’s eight, failed to medal in Olympic rowing for the first time since 1908.Beyond all that, Canada’s eight won the country’s first gold medal in the sport’s marquee women’s event since 1992, when Heddle and partner Marnie McBean won one of their Canadian-record three career summer Games golds as members of the big boat. It was the country’s first women’s gold since 1996, when Heddle and McBean won the double sculls in Atlanta. And given the situation, it was vital to the program’s outlook.So take a bow, Rio holdovers Grainger, Lisa Roman and Christine Roper. And absorb the moment, Olympic newcomers Kasia Gruchalla-Wesierski, Andrea Proske, Madison Mailey, Sydney Payne, Avalon Wasteneys and coxswain Kristen Kit. In channelling Heddle’s spirit, you just helped right a national program that appeared to be charting a dangerously wayward course. After finishing the heats second to New Zealand, and finishing the repechage second to Romania, you brought the storm when it mattered.“These are a feisty group of women. They do not back down,” Kit said. “This special group of women, we said it last night, we perform when we need to. We perform on the day. And these girls, they always rise to the challenge.” Certainly the trip to the top of the podium wasn’t easy to see coming. Thanks to Canada’s strict COVID travel protocols, the women’s eight essentially hadn’t raced internationally in most of the past two years. But even before the regatta began it’s worth remembering that Kit, who assumed the role held in Rio by five-time Olympic medallist coxswain Lesley Thompson-Willie, insisted she was confident that Canada had the speed to deliver a gold. In lieu of the usual series of Olympic tune-up races against the world’s best women, the group had honed that form on the waters of Victoria’s Elk Lake alongside their frequent training partners from Canada’s men’s four. The men’s four, which finished eighth here, was usually faster than the women’s eight, which provided a helpful training benchmark.“They’re faster than us to the point where it pushes us, but not to the point where it’s unachievable,” Kit said before the race. “(But) it’s actually really hard to know where we’re at. We know our speed. We know where our areas of opportunity are in our race. But we obviously don’t know what our competition is doing.”The gold, along

Dave Feschuk: Tokyo gold in women’s eight moves Canada past its rowing pains and it couldn’t have come at a better time

TOKYO—It’s called the Sea Forest Waterway, the venue for the Olympic rowing regatta at these postponed Games. And if the name evokes a certain image — perhaps an idyllic basin flanked by verdant foliage, which is the way it looks from some angles on the TV broadcast — it’s a little bit of false advertising.

The “Sea” is out there somewhere, beyond the grey walls of the race course. But the portion of Tokyo Bay on which the world’s best oarsfolk came to sort out the medals this week is flanked by an industrial wasteland heavy on rusted metal and bleak concrete. As for the “Forest” — well, if you direct your gaze beyond the adjacent heavy-truck route and below the jets frequenting the commercial flight path overhead, yes, there are some trees.

And speaking of not quite living up to expectations: For the second straight Olympics, Canada’s rowing crew came into the final day of competition desperately needing a big performance from its women’s eight to help redeem an otherwise underwhelming showing. Five years ago in Rio, the late heroics escaped the eight, which finished fifth to punctuate Canada’s disappointment.

But as the members of the eight arrived at starting gate before Friday’s pivotal race, they convinced themselves they’d been sent a sign things would be different this time. The clouds were dark and threatening. Thunder loudly rumbled. Clearly, they told each other, it was Kathleen Heddle, the Canadian Olympic rowing legend who died in January at age 55, cheering them on from the beyond.

“(When) the thunder was out. It was just a reminder that Kathleen was with us, and we’re the storm, and we’re going to bring it,” said Susanne Grainger, one of three holdovers from the Rio eight. “We had a moment as a boat to remember her and make sure we brought the amazing grace and grit she rowed with into our race. We definitely had her on our minds today.”

With the program’s redemption in their hands and a legend’s spirit on their minds, maybe it was only fitting that Canada’s eight unfurled an unexpected lightning bolt of a timely victory that forever put them in Heddle’s rare Olympic company. In winning Canada’s last chance at a rowing gold at these Games, the crew didn’t only pull off an upset over the reigning world champions from New Zealand, which finished with silver almost a second behind the Canadians. It also ended one of the sport’s most impressive dynasties, knocking a United States program that had won three straight gold medal in the event off the podium. China won bronze.

The United States, which would later follow up its fourth-place finish in the women’s eight with a fourth-place finish in the men’s eight, failed to medal in Olympic rowing for the first time since 1908.

Beyond all that, Canada’s eight won the country’s first gold medal in the sport’s marquee women’s event since 1992, when Heddle and partner Marnie McBean won one of their Canadian-record three career summer Games golds as members of the big boat. It was the country’s first women’s gold since 1996, when Heddle and McBean won the double sculls in Atlanta. And given the situation, it was vital to the program’s outlook.

So take a bow, Rio holdovers Grainger, Lisa Roman and Christine Roper. And absorb the moment, Olympic newcomers Kasia Gruchalla-Wesierski, Andrea Proske, Madison Mailey, Sydney Payne, Avalon Wasteneys and coxswain Kristen Kit. In channelling Heddle’s spirit, you just helped right a national program that appeared to be charting a dangerously wayward course. After finishing the heats second to New Zealand, and finishing the repechage second to Romania, you brought the storm when it mattered.

“These are a feisty group of women. They do not back down,” Kit said. “This special group of women, we said it last night, we perform when we need to. We perform on the day. And these girls, they always rise to the challenge.”

Certainly the trip to the top of the podium wasn’t easy to see coming. Thanks to Canada’s strict COVID travel protocols, the women’s eight essentially hadn’t raced internationally in most of the past two years. But even before the regatta began it’s worth remembering that Kit, who assumed the role held in Rio by five-time Olympic medallist coxswain Lesley Thompson-Willie, insisted she was confident that Canada had the speed to deliver a gold. In lieu of the usual series of Olympic tune-up races against the world’s best women, the group had honed that form on the waters of Victoria’s Elk Lake alongside their frequent training partners from Canada’s men’s four.

The men’s four, which finished eighth here, was usually faster than the women’s eight, which provided a helpful training benchmark.

“They’re faster than us to the point where it pushes us, but not to the point where it’s unachievable,” Kit said before the race. “(But) it’s actually really hard to know where we’re at. We know our speed. We know where our areas of opportunity are in our race. But we obviously don’t know what our competition is doing.”

The gold, along with a bronze from the women’s pair of Hillary Janssens and Caileigh Filmer, saw Canada match its two-medal total from London in 2012, when it came away with silvers in the men’s and women’s eight.

Heading into Friday, there were those who’d been wondering where the program had gone wrong in the intervening years. Not that there still aren’t concerns on the men’s side of the boathouse. Canada hasn’t even fielded a men’s eight at the Olympics since that London silver. In 2016 the country’s small-boat strategy meant it didn’t even attempt to qualify one for Rio. This time around a qualifying attempt to bring a big boat to Tokyo came up short. Conlin McCabe, the program veteran who was a member of that London eight and finished fourth here in the men’s pair with partner Kai Lagerfeld, said the world’s getting better all the time.

“Just qualifying for the Games is more and more difficult now than it was in London,” said McCabe. “The quality of rowers around the world is getting more competitive. Canada’s got to answer the call.”

There’s hope in the offing. McCabe, 30, pointed out there are promising young rowers in the pipeline, including a men’s four that won gold in the under-23 world championship. But as for what’s required for the program to rediscover something closer to its form of, say, 2008, when it brought home four medals from Beijing? Both Lagerfeld and McCabe chose an interesting word: Leadership.

“What I really hope for Canadian men’s rowing is just really strong and clear leadership and guidance,” Lagerfeld said.

Added McCabe: “Like Kai said, (eventual success) comes from having great leadership with a clear vision.”

Leadership changes, of course, haven’t exactly been uncommon on Canada’s rowing staff. The poor performance in Rio led to turnover in the coaching ranks and in the office of the high-performance director, with Peter Cookson exiting to make room for Iain Brambell.

“It’s pretty easy to scrutinize from the outside. But the athletes on the inside who have been through it ever since 2012, and been through all these changes, know just how difficult it’s been at times,” Lagerfeld said.

What hasn’t changed much has been rowing’s considerable bankroll. The sport received about $17 million in taxpayer-fuelled Own the Podium funding in the lead-up to Rio. And while there were concerns that number would take a hit in the lead-up to Tokyo given Own the Podium’s pay-for-performance model, rowing was able to convince those who control the purse strings to fork over about $20 million en route to Friday.

Before Canada’s women’s eight pulled gold from the threatening clouds on Friday you might have been excused if you were skeptical about the program’s future prospects of retaining all of those millions. But as an elated eight celebrated its triumph — with Kit standing up in the boat to applaud her spent crewmates after they crossed the line at Sea Forest Waterway — it was suddenly easier to see that particular forest through the trees.

If one gold medal didn’t exactly hearken back to the back-to-back boom Games of 1992 and 1996, when Heddle and McBean were among the faces of an operation that delivered an astounding 10 medals, five of them gold, at least the legacy of those glory days proved, not a burden, but an inspiration.

After Canada burst from the gate to command an early-race lead — pulling nearly two seconds ahead of the Kiwis at the halfway point of the 2,000-metre race — the only question was whether they’d be able to hold off their surging opponents. In those trying moments, with Kit’s crew feeling the sport’s gruelling full-body burn, the coxswain encouraged the eight to weather the suffering while invoking the names of two women.

One was Michelle Darvill, the boat’s Toronto-born coach, whom the crew lauded for her patient guidance amid pandemic chaos. The other was Heddle, whose name is synonymous within the sport with grace and grit and unyielding resolve.

With 750 metres to go, Kit called out a question over the in-boat speaker system.

“I called, ‘What would Kathleen do?’” she said. “And then shortly after that I called, ‘What would Michelle do?’ These girls responded. It was 10 strokes for Kathleen and 10 strokes for Michelle. That’s when I really knew, ‘Like, oh God, we have this.’ ”

They had it, and their lightning-bolt performance couldn’t have come at a better time.

Dave Feschuk is a Toronto-based sports columnist for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: @dfeschuk

Source : Toronto Star More   

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