Victoria’s Caileigh Filmer says it was a combination of physical effort and heart that earned Canada its first rowing medal at the Tokyo Olympics.
Filmer — a former student at the University of Victoria — and her partner Hillary Janssens of Surrey, took bronze Thursday in the women’s pair after a gutsy performance that won Canada its first medal in the event since Marnie McBean and Kathleen Heddle won gold at the 1992 Games in Barcelona.
Janssens said the medal was all the more meaningful because Heddle died of cancer at age 55 in January, while McBean is serving as the country’s chef de mission in Tokyo.
“That’s so special,” she said. “I’m so glad to be able to do that. Especially in memory of Kathleen … thinking about her family, and obviously, Marnie’s here and I hope Marnie watched that and is proud.
“Two of the most amazing Canadian athletes and we’re so happy to continue their legacy,” added Janssens.
The 2018 world champions finished behind New Zealand’s Grace Prendergast and Kerri Gowler (6:50.19) and the Russian Olympic Committee’s Vasilisa Stepanova and Elena Oriabinskaia (6:51.45).
The B.C.-based pair led after 500 and 1,000 metres and sat second with a quarter of the race to go before hanging on for bronze late with a hard-charging boat from Britain on their tail.
“We told ourselves that the first half we were going to race physically, the second half we were going to race with our hearts,” said Filmer. “We’re lucky enough that, in our pair, we’re rowing with the number one person in the world that we want to row with. Hil’s my best friend, my favourite partner, and it just makes it so fun to be out there together. We told ourselves that we just wanted to enjoy every second.”
After crossing the finish line and seeing their time on the scoreboard, a visibly spent Janssens collapsed backwards into the arms of Filmer, who slumped forward in exhaustion.
“The first 1,000 (metres) was about being physical,” Filmer said. “And the second half was about rowing with our heart.
“I’m just proud.”
Leading up to the games, the duo had been preparing at Rowing Canada’s National Training Centre located at Elk Lake here on Vancouver Island.
While Canada’s female swimmers have been on a medal streak, their momentum wasn’t enough to carry them to the podium in the women’s 4×200-metre relay.
The team of Summer McIntosh, Kayla Sanchez, Rebecca Smith and Penny Oleksiak set a new Canadian record but finished fourth behind China, the United States and Australia.
A medal in the event would have made the 21-year-old Oleksiak Canada’s most decorated Olympian of all time. Her next chance comes Friday morning (Thursday evening in Canada) when she defends her gold in the 100-metre freestyle.
As of Thursday morning, all 10 of Canada’s Olympic medals have been won by women.
With files from the Canadian Press.