A cheering crowd at The Winnipeg Rowing Club thundered and roared this morning as their very own Janine Hanson, and the rest of the Canadian women's eight rowing team, won a silver medal at the Olympics.
Hanson was both elated and exhausted, her silver medal hanging around her neck, after the race.
"A lot of hard work and a lot of sweat went into this medal. It’s something to be proud of for sure. It was a tough race and I’m proud of these girls I work with every day and it was very exciting to be where we were," Hanson told a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.
And vindication, too.
"Coming off last place in Beijing, it’s pretty sweet. In Beijing we came last and so now having the feeling of getting a silver medal at the Olympics, it’s something very few people ever accomplish.
"I still get emotional when people cheer for Canada because it’s just such an honour to be able to represent your country at something like this," Hanson said.
At the Winnipeg Rowing Club, rowers gathered at 6:30 a.m. for the Olympic Regatta.
Close to 70 people crowded into the St. Boniface club on the Red River to watch the Winnipegger on Canada’s women’s rowing team race at 6:30 a.m., and a momentary delay in the video feed made the silver medal that much sweeter when it did come.
Hanson belongs to the club and everyone there either knew her, rowed with her at some point, or coached her. They all cheered her. At the end, some rowers quietly moved from the room to the docks downstairs, slipping their sculls into the water in a victory lap of their own.
Commentary from radio station HOT 103 kept the club in the race, even when the video feed dropped into the black hole of the Internet part way through.
When the screen flashed back, the crowd in the rowing club roared; every 500 metres, the club thundered so it was hard to know when the race ended.
Canada shot out just behind the U.S. from the start and dogged the powerhouse, building up to a hard push at the end although the Americans kept their lead.
Minutes after, wire reports confirmed the standings.
The defending champion U.S. won gold in six minutes 10.59 seconds, leading throughout and resisting a late Canadian charge to maintain their stranglehold on the event.
Canada finished in 6:12.06 ahead of the Netherlands at 6:13.12.
The Canadians and the U.S., the defending Olympic and six-time world champions, came into the Games as rivals for gold. The Americans had not been beaten in six years but it was a photo finish in May when the two met at a World Cup in Lucerne, Switzerland, where the U.S. won by just 0.03 seconds.
The Canadian women's eight was shut out of the medals in the last two Olympics. Its last gold was in 1992 in Barcelona.
The Canadian men's eight won silver behind Germany at the Games on Wednesday.
"You sort of feel like you know all the girls on the team," said former club executive director Dolores Young, in town from her current home in New Brunswick. Young, who was co-chair of the Pan Am Games in 1999, when Hanson got her start in rowing, said the club couldn’t be prouder of the rower. "Every stroke, you could feel the acceleration," she said.
Asked if she had a message for Hanson, Young immediately responded, "The biggest congratulations from your home town. We’re so proud of you."
There was a group of four women in their 20s watching the race very closely from the back of the packed club house this morning.
Melodie Bedona, Kelly Malcolmson, Renee Argo and Allison Schultz all rowed with Hansen when she first took up the sport.
The five women bonded over the sculls sport and every Christmas they still get together to update each other.
"She’s worked so hard. It’s great," Schultz said, as the final cheer died down in club after the race.
Adam Hanson, Janine Hanson's brother, was in London to cheer her on during the silver medal win.
"I'm incredibly proud of my sister," he wrote via email. "To win a medal for Manitoba was certainly a thrill for her and us. She worked at this six hours a day for ten years!"
Updated on Thursday, August 2, 2012 at 8:45 AM CDT: added comment from Adam Hanson