With no medals given out at the Royal Canadian Henley Regatta other than for race winners, there’s plenty of future incentive for the hundreds of rowers who don’t cross the finish line first.
Liam Keane, a 15-year-old athlete from Metchosin for whom last week’s Henley races wound up his second full year in the sport, has tasted both victory and defeat.
Rowing for the Victoria City Rowing Club, he was part of the winning under-17 men’s eight and men’s quad teams at the regatta and was second in the U17 men’s double final.
The wins erased narrow VCRC losses last year in the men’s eight (by 0.5 seconds) and quad (by two seconds) in his first trip to St. Catharine’s, Ont. for the regatta, he said.
“After those two losses, (training became all about) get hungry for the gold, get hungry,” said Keane, a student at St. Andrew’s Regional High School in Saanich. “The one mindset was to win. Everything really paid off and we were a lot more focused this time. Every stroke I took it was in the back of my mind, ‘half a second.’ It was pretty sweet winning.”
Vic. City’s quad boat won by more than 10 seconds, while the eights finished almost seven seconds in front.
In the double final Sunday, Keane and partner Sean Van Gessel crossed the line just 0.8 seconds behind the winners. “That’s the race that’s going to make me hungry for next year,” Keane said. “There’s always more to reach for.”
Among other West Shore athletes rowing at this highly competitive international meet, Emma Gribbon was part of the U17 women’s quad 4x winning boat, which captured victory by more than 10 seconds. She was also part of the second-place U17 women’s eight boat that finished about five seconds behind.
Keane’s older brother Patrick, 17, who rowed for Canada at the junior world championships last year, placed second in the U19 men’s single final and was fourth in the U23 men’s lightweight single.
Amanda MacKenzie was part of the fifth-place U17 women’s quad boat.
VCRC junior coach Scott Swinkles was thrilled with the team’s overall performance at Henley. He said the 34-athlete contingent collected a club-best nine wins – including a club record-tying four in the junior division – and finished fourth for the efficiency trophy amongst 137 clubs. Efficiency measures the number of wins divided by the total number of events entered.
“It showed there’s quite a lot of strength and depth (in the club) that we’re able to take such a large team and do so well,” Swinkles said.