About two minutes and 500 metres of ocean off Cadboro Bay decided which Canadians would represent in one of rowings newest world championship events taking place in Portugal this year.
Rowing pair Aubrey Oldham of Hamilton, Ont. and Sarah Pigeon of Orillia, Ont., won Rowing Canada Aviron’s national rowing beach sprint competition held for the first time at Cadboro Bay on the windy morning of Sunday, Aug. 22. The pair narrowly beat Kelowna, B.C.’s Mikayla Arends and Anthony Ciaccia of Hamlin, Ont. for the qualifying position to 2021’s world rowing beach sprint championships in Oeiras, Portugal this September.
Brienne Miller of North Star Rowing Club in Nova Scotia qualified as Canada’s single rower on Aug. 21.
Rowing beach sprints are one of the newest evolutions of competitive rowing. It’s a spectacle that draws the same spectator excitement as beach volleyball, Oldham said. The event involves two competing rowers sprinting from the top of the beach to their shored boat (and partner, in the case of doubles) before slaloming a buoy about 250 metres off the coast, returning and sprinting back to the starting line.
Races can be close – Oldham’s legs were caked with sand after a leaping finish to slap the flag and secure his ticket to Portugal. This will be his and Pigeon’s second world championship, having competed at the event’s inaugural in 2019. “We’re super stoked (and) excited to represent Canada again this year,” Oldham said. “It’s been a long two years training for this, so it’s really exciting to be able to go back.”
Rowing Canada Aviron board member and Victoria resident Jennifer Walinga called the first national rowing beach sprint championship held in Greater Victoria “a nice trial” for the region’s capabilities in professional rowing.
Cadboro Bay’s long tide makes a great run for the beach sprint, she said.
Champions Oldham and Pigeon are both longtime flatwater rowers, Pigeon said. Their training for more traditional events, such as the 2000 meter row, mainly involves weight training for endurance.
For the beach sprint, “we’ve been trying to incorporate a lot more sprinting and runs on the beach,” Pigeon said. “A part of the excitement of a new sport is trying to figure out (best training practises).”
Their training is vital, Oldham said, for handling ideal beach sprint ocean conditions; the speed gained by cutting heavier waves makes up for the energy required initially. The wind at Cadboro Bay left waves to be desired on Sunday, Oldham said. “At Worlds (in Portugal), we’re expecting some big rollers and swells coming right in off the ocean,” he said. “That’ll make it more dynamic.”
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