This summer is full of great sporting events in and around Winnipeg with the 50th anniversary of the Canada Games at the centre of it all. Young athletes from across the nation will display the culmination of their hard work, dedication and commitment, and of course, their raw talent.
Rowing is a sport that doesn’t necessarily leap to mind when you think of Manitoba. Perhaps a game played on a flat, prairie-like surface such as soccer or baseball is more common.
The Winnipeg Rowing Club has been around for 136 years and the Kenora Rowing Club for 127 years. Rowing is not new to these parts, as Andrea Katz of Rowing Manitoba proudly declares, “Manitoba has sent more rowers to the Olympics than any other sport in the province.”
Rowers around here have the Red River to practice in and it is good to be on a river to row against the current. But for regattas there needs to be 2000 metres of straight water.
Janine Stephens is the president of the Winnipeg Rowing Club. She is an Olympian (2012 silver medal) and she competed in the Young Canada Games in 2001 in London, Ontario.
Many of the rowers from the 2001 Games are still friends and have established life-long relationships. Stephens talks about the inclusiveness of the rowing community and the non-judgmental attitude the teams have. In order to row you need to be together because tipping into the Red River is a muddy mess.
These young athletes establish a good work ethic that lasts a life time; not just as an individual but also as a responsible team member, Stephens says. Many of the junior rowers come to the club as individuals and not with their friends from high school. That means there is more openness to friendship, interaction and an acceptance from a cross section of society.
The Winnipeg Rowing Club is one sponsor of the rowing events during the Games. The other is the Kenora Rowing Club, with the main venue at Rabbit Lake.
This beautiful site is a small lake of 2200 metres long and wide enough for seven lanes of rowers. It is located at Kenora, Ontario, 209 kms from Winnipeg (about a two-hour and 20-minute drive).
Katz says the Games will set up starting platforms and information at each 500 metre marker. It will be as professional as the Olympics.
The events are scheduled for the first week of the Games – July 28 (this is a training day ) to Aug. 4.
Kenora has embraced these games in a big way. The downtown will be hosting a major art exhibit that has been in the works for the past couple of years. Not only professional artists are involved but everyone from school children to seniors will have work displayed.
Oars have been painted to represent each province to be displayed at the Rabbit Lake site and auctioned off at the end of competition. The Lake of the Woods Arts Community is in charge of this event.
There is also an arts and cultural event called Path of the Paddle and Oar. This will be a celebration of the Trans Canada Waterway Trail from Thunder Bay to the Whiteshell.
It is going to be a wonderful experience for the competitors and their families. The spectators will be treated to the elite level sport of rowing and be able to experience the artistic community of Kenora.