By Brendan Shaughnessy
The Rideau Canoe Club hosted over 1,200 paddlers from across the country for the 2015 Canadian Sprint Canoe Kayak Championships, and they beat all of ‘em.
For the first time in 13 years, the purple-and-white-clad athletes from Mooney’s Bay won the burgee – a giant flag awarded to the club accumulating the most overall points throughout the five-day, 392-race festival.
Rideau earned 710 points to beat 10-time national champion Burloak’s 616 total at the Aug. 25-29 event, and then blasted the competition to top the standings for the Aug. 30 Canadian masters championships as well.
Rideau head coach Wade Farquharson hailed the event as “a true club championship,” noting that paddlers from all divisions got to earn points for their squads.
“Normally, it’s like a pyramid,” he explains, “with high-performance athletes at the top. With this event, though, we invert the pyramid and everyone races.”
Farquharson says it was great to see athletes like four-time Olympic medallist Adam van Koeverden put on their respective club’s singlets for the event because “canoeing in Canada is really a canoe club. It’s not a provincial team. It’s not the national team.”
With 19 gold, 16 silver and 13 bronze for 48 medals in total across all categories to celebrate, Farquharson was hesitant to highlight any standout Rideau paddlers in particular, although he offered a short (and fairly obvious) reason for the club’s success: “Rideau women dominated this weekend.”
This was especially true for the club’s female under-19 kayakers. Fifteen Rideau boats made it to the seven finals in the division. In those seven races, they won six golds.
Combining for 10 medal wins, Kate Braddon, Rowan Hardy-Kavanagh, August Sibthorpe and Naomi Van Walraven led the way to the division crown, while the Rideau junior women and U17 men also topped their classes.
The club’s success came at a slight price, however: by late Saturday afternoon, coach Stuart Wilson had the scratchy voice of a pack-a-day smoker.
“We’ve been doing really well, and I just got a little too into it the past few days,” he smiles.
While his vocal cords were still intact earlier in the day, Wilson captained Rideau to a gold medal in the U19 mixed war canoe race – one of the club’s six medals in the 15-paddler discipline that counts for nearly twice as many burgee points as the 1, 2 and 4-paddler races.
War canoe also holds special significance for Farquharson, who captained two of the big boats. Nephew Reid paddled in two war canoes and captained two others, while daughter Cheyenne and son Lochlen competed in them as well. “For a lot of athletes, even if you’re an Olympic champion, the first race of your life is a war canoe,” he notes, “and often the last race of your paddling life is a war canoe. It all starts here.”
Angus golden on home water
Rideau’s athletes at the top end of the pyramid also got to celebrate triumphs on their home course. Rio 2016 Olympic candidates Ben Tardioli and Angus Mortimer powered Rideau to 3rd place in the senior men’s standings.
A poor result in his heat left Mortimer in Lane 9 for the final of the K-1 1000-metre race. No matter – the 29-year-old covered the distance four seconds faster than anyone else.
Tardioli, meanwhile, earned a silver medal from the back of a war canoe, captaining Rideau’s mixed U17 boat to 2nd place and repeating the performance two hours later with the junior men’s war canoe and picked up another silver. The 25-year-old won two more silvers on his own (C-1 senior men’s 200 and 500 metres), as well as a bronze alongside Stephen Frodsham in the C-2 200 m.
A world junior bronze medallist in 2013, Madeline Schmidt was another big contributor for the hosts, earning seven medals from her eight races.
The smaller west-end Ottawa River Canoe Club continued to rise onto the elite national stage with its all-time best medal total of six.
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