HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic
By Martin Cleary
A buoyant and confident Sophia Jensen “has the world on a string.”
Or to give that an athletic twist, the Cascades Canoe Club member added to her lengthy string of world titles Sunday at the 2022 Canoe and Paracanoe Senior Sprint Championships in Dartmouth, N.S.
And she’s only 20 years old.
Jensen, who won six gold medals at the 2018 and 2019 junior worlds and two at the 2021 world U23 championships, continued to build to her envious collection of global golds, when she spearheaded the Canadian women’s C4 boat to a narrow victory over Poland in the 500-metre race on Lake Banook.
Competing in only her second world senior championships, after reaching the C2 A finals over 200 and 500 metres last year in Copenhagen, Jensen prepared for her golden moment capturing the silver medal in the C1 500 metres. It was her first individual final and first career world senior medal.
The women’s C4 500-metre final, which unfortunately for Canadian canoe fans wasn’t part of the International Canoe Federation’s livestreaming program on its website, was a battle between Canada, Poland and Hungary. At the 250-metre mark, Canada was trailing the other two powerful nations.
But for the second 250 metres, the Canadian team of Jensen, Sloan MacKenzie of Cheema Aquatic Club, Katie Vincent of the Mississauga Canoe Club and Julia Lilley Osende of the Mic Mac Aquatic Canoe Club shifted into overdrive and recorded a tight 0.17-second victory.
Canada, which had its own finish-line cheering section as well as adopted fan support from the boisterous Brazilian contingent, finished in one minute, 56.14 seconds. Poland was runner-up in 1:56.31 and Hungary took third place in 1:57.39.
The five-day world championships ended Sunday with Canada scoring the vast majority of its medal total on the final day – three gold, one silver and one bronze. That raised the host country’s total to six medals (3-1-2) and earned it a fourth-place finish on the medal table (based on gold medals) and a fifth-place showing (based on total medals). Canada also won one silver and one bronze medal from paracanoeist/parakayaker Brianna Hennessy of the Ottawa River Canoe Club and tied for fifth in the all-medal paracanoe standings.
Vincent was a true workhorse on Sunday for Canada, which had entries in 15 A-finals. After placing fifth in the C1 200 metres, which she won at the 2021 worlds, Vincent was unstoppable. She was first in the mixed C2 500 metres with Alix Plomteux of Lac Beauport, the C4 500 metres and the next-to-last race, the C1 5,000-metre marathon.
Craig Spence of Cheema Aquatic Club and Bret Himmelman of Maskwa Aquatic Club won Canada’s other medal, the bronze in the men’s C2 1,000 metres.
Canada had an average start for the first 250 metres in the C4 500-metre race, but Jensen said the stroke rate picked up after a lot of “yelling and screaming” in the razor-thin, tippy boat.
“I’m really, really excited (about her overall performances),” noted Jensen, who is technically classified as a U23 paddler, but is playing up at the senior championships.
“At the end of the C4, we couldn’t see the other crews, but we pushed hard and were absolutely exhausted.”
Two hours before Jensen raced the C4 500-metre race, she made her debut in a singles final, the C1 500 metres. It was a race with a variety of emotions for her – nervousness, confusion, jubilation.
“I was a bit nervous, but had no expectations,” she explained. “I wanted to stick with the Ukraine girl (Liudmyla Luzan).
“At one time, I was confused by being ahead of her. It was a back-and-forth race. It was really fun.”
Luzan, who won the C1 1,000-metre race on Saturday, slowly inched ahead of Jensen over the final 75 metres to win in 2:22.34. Jensen stopped in 2:23.21.
“I had no expectations per se,” the Chelsea, PQ., resident added. “I just wanted to have my best races possible. Yeah, honestly, I’m happy with my races.
“I’m excited for the future, for what the future will bring.”
At her first world senior championships last year in Copenhagen, where Jensen was sixth in the C2 500 metres and eighth in the C2 200 metres, she brought a valuable lesson to her first worlds staged in Canada.
“I learned to have no regrets. Paddle as hard as you can and see what goes,” she said.
The Canadian team of Tyler Laidlaw of Sack-a-Wa Canoe Club, Plomteux, Andrew Billard and Matthew O’Neill of the Rideau Canoe Club had their one and only men’s C4 500-metre race and placed fifth in a field of five boats in 1:44.12. They were 4.70 seconds behind Spain.
A day after winning the women’s K2 200-metre bronze medal, Andréanne Langlois of Trois-Rivières and Toshka Besharah-Hrebacka of Rideau were ninth in the K2 500-metre final in 1:56.79, which was 6.91 seconds behind the champion Polish team.
Langlois and Besharah-Hrebacka were in the top three early in the race, but weren’t in the top four at the 250-metre mark.
Rideau’s Peter Bradley, the youngest member of Canada’s world senior team at 18, was knocked out of the men’s C1 5,000-metre marathon. The bottom paddlers are eliminated from the race after each loop.
Tokyo Olympian Madeline Schmidt of Rideau didn’t finish the women’s K1 5,000-metre endurance test. She was 11th at the 2021 world championships.
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 49 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.
When the pandemic struck, Martin created the “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at OttawaSportsPages.ca.
Martin can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @martincleary.
HELP SHINE A LIGHT ON LOCAL SPORT! The Ottawa Sports Pages has proudly provided a voice for local sport for over 10 years, but we need your help to continue another 10 and beyond. Please donate to the Ottawa Sports Pages Fund today.