By Brendan Shykora
Paddlers braved extreme conditions at the 2018 Sprint East Canada Cup on a stifling Canada Day weekend – only to have the afternoon races canned due to a severe heat warning.
Hosted by the Rideau Canoe Club as part of its annual International Canada Day Regatta, the Canada Cup was halted around 2 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. Sunday when the humidex eclipsed 45 degrees.
“We knew that the weather was going to be as hot as it is right now, we were just not sure when that was going to happen,” the club’s executive director Hector Carranco said standing in front of vacant lanes on the Rideau River.
Some cloud cover provided hopes for continuation after a noontime pause on Saturday, but it was short-lived.
“We did a few more races (in the afternoon), but we assessed again that it was not safe for the athletes to continue.”
The schedule for day two was pushed ahead by an hour to 7 a.m. in an attempt to beat the heat, but the extreme weather struck even earlier and more intensely than the day before.
Ottawa racers beat the heat
Local athletes made the most of the 58 of 128 scheduled races that were completed over the weekend. Among them was 16-year-old Maren Bradley. The Rideau club member – who suited up for the Ontario Canoe Kayak Team for the weekend along with several other Rideau athletes – claimed the gold medal in Saturday’s under-18 women’s single kayaking 500 m.
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Bradley got off to a hot start in the sprint, gaining a sizeable lead within the first 200 metres. A late push from Sarah Nagy of Richmond Hill Canoe Club made for a close finish, but Bradley was able to secure the gold.
Bradley’s win was a battle against fatigue: “It was pretty tiring because we had our national team tryouts last weekend,” she said. “It was also exhausting because of the heat. But I just went out there and did what I could.”
Last weekend’s national tryouts were equally successful for Bradley, who qualified for the U17 Olympic Hopes Regatta in Poland this September, and the U18 World Juniors in Bulgaria at the end of July.
Bradley capped off the Cup on Sunday with a gold medal in the two-person 500 m, sharing the winning kayak with Sarah Nagy. It was a Rideau-filled podium, with Hayley Conrad and Olivia Pucci taking silver, and Toshka Besharah and Erin Demopolis earning bronze.
In men’s canoeing, Isaac Finklestein of the home club earned gold in the single open canoeing 1000 m, and also in the four-man 1000 m that wound up being Saturday’s final race. On Sunday he added another gold in the two-person 1000m along with teammate Lucas Turnbull.
Silver medals in canoeing were handed to Rideau’s Adam Richard in the U18 men’s single 1000 m, Ella Hodgson-Pageau in the U16 women’s single 500 m and Courtney Spratt in the open women single 500 m. On Sunday Hodgson-Pageau teamed up with Kate Pennyfather to win the two-person canoeing race.
The host club also proved its ability to coordinate 15 athletes in a single canoe, winning the War Canoe race in both the U16 and U18 mixed groups.
This year’s Canada Cup was the first to be split into eastern and western divisions. The West Canada Cup took place in Regina, Saskatchewan, also on Canada Day weekend.