Four rowers from Kingston will be heading to Racice, Czech Republic next month for the 2022 World Rowing Championships, as Cassidy Deane, Kristina Walker, Jennifer Casson, and Will Crothers were recently named to Rowing Canada’s contingent for the event. In total, 35 Canadian athletes will make the trip to the Championships, as Canada looks for a dominant performance on the world stage.
The Kingston-based athletes competing at this year’s Worlds are all members of the Kingston Rowing Club, an organization with deep roots in Canadian rowing. KRC Head Coach John Armitage says it is normal to see Kingston athletes represented on the national team: “This is not new to us… it’s become almost an annual occurrence that Kingston-based rowers have been selected to represent Canada.”
Jennifer Casson will compete in the Lightweight Women’s Double (LW2x) race, with the 2022 World Championships marking her third appearance in the event. In 2019, Casson finished in eighth place in the LW2x race, an improvement on her ninth-place finish in 2018. Last year in Tokyo, Casson competed in her first-ever Summer Olympics, finishing with a 12th-place result.
Cassidy Deane, who originally hails from Whistler, British Columbia, will be making her World Championship debut next month, as she looks for a strong result in the Women’s Four class. Deane recently earned a silver medal at a World Cup event, competing as a member of the Women’s Eight team. While 2022 marks Deane’s first World Championships, the rower is no stranger to international competition. In 2017, the then Queen’s Gael took home a silver medal at the FISU World University Rowing Championships.
Another member of the 2017 University Worlds team, who will also be making her World Championship debut next month, is Wolfe Island’s Kristina Walker. In Racice, Walker will try to improve on her results from the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, where she finished tenth as part of the Women’s Four team.
No Kingston rower has more international experience than Will Crothers, who has participated in three Olympic games as well as seven World Championships. At the 2012 Summer Games in London, Crothers took home a silver medal as a member of the Men’s Eight team. At the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto, he won two gold medals.
As for what makes Crothers such a strong athlete, both in the boat and on land, it’s “his heart,” says John Armitage. “I coached Will in high school at KCVI, and I always put him in a stroke seat because he just would not quit… In rowing, we talk about the ‘wall.’ At some point in a race, physiologically and psychologically, you’re depleted and you’re hitting a wall… Will [comes in] and climbs the wall, [while] the rest of us fear it, and [that’s] a rare trait in any sport.”
With four local athletes represented on the national team, the sport of rowing in Kingston is alive and well. When asked what makes Kingston such a hotbed for national-level rowers, Armitage says the club and the city provide all the necessary elements for success.
“You’ve got to have great athletes, great coaches and great facilities,” says Armitage. “[They’re] all great athletes in this case, [and] we’ve got a talented pool of local coaches, and these athletes are the beneficiaries of these coaches. And then [we have] great facilities… The inner harbour and the Cataraqui river [are] ideal for rowing — which is ironic in a city that has held [Olympic] sailing — but it is sheltered from the winds.”
As for how KRC athletes will do at next month’s Worlds, Armitage acknowledges, “The post-Olympic year is always a tough year to predict because you don’t know what level of [strength] your competitors have. So what we say to our athletes is ‘You compete to the very best of your ability, in your seat, in your boat, and in your lane.’ And if you’ve left nothing out there, then look up at the finish line and figure out where you finish because we cannot control our competition.”
The 2022 World Rowing Championships have been several years in the making after the 2020 and 2021 editions were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Last time out, at the 2019 Championships in Ottensheim, Austria, Team Canada finished with three medals. This year’s competition officially kicks off on Sep. 18 and runs until Sep. 25.