It’s been a year of change for rower Janine Hanson, but she’s taking it all in stride — or stroke, as the case may be.
The national team member from Charleswood made the switch from sculling (using two oars) to sweeping (with only one oar) this season, and had a hand in a very successful summer for Canada’s women’s eight team.
The team won the prestigious Henley Royal in England as well as the Royal Canadian Henley. Hanson and her crewmates also captured second place at the third World Cup race in Lucerne, Switzerland, finishing only two one-hundredths of a second behind a U.S. crew that is undefeated since 2005.
Hanson was recently named to the team that will represent Canada at the World Rowing Championships in New Zealand, from Oct. 30 to Nov. 7.
Not bad for a 27-year-old who hadn’t raced in eights since she was at the University of Michigan in the early- and mid-2000s.
"It’s not quite relearning the sport," said Hanson, who raced in quads at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. "The basic stroke is pretty similar. The part that’s different is the twisting of the shoulders, because you only have one side that you specifically row on."
With both hands on the oar, and a wider blade that grips more water, Hanson said there is more power in every stroke. This means the boat moves faster and the race is slightly more of a sprint.
"At the next Olympics we want to race at a (rate of) 40 (strokes per minute)," she said. "In quad, it’s only 36 or 38. The race is faster… but it doesn’t hurt any less."
Hanson, who took up the sport at the Winnipeg Rowing Club as a 17-year-old in 2000, has been living and training with the national women’s team in London, Ont., since 2006. In November, new coach Al Morrow implemented a new training regimen that sees the women practise three times a day, five days a week.
If athletes expect to row at the highest international level, they would need to set aside work and school and make their sport their full-time job.
"There’s definitely a lot more training from previous years," Hanson said. "But it’s also putting out results."
The trip to New Zealand will mark the second world championship appearance for Hanson, who rowed in quads in 2007. Aside from the Olympics, it is the biggest rowing event there is.
The Canadian women’s eight team hasn’t won the event since 1991 (although it did win gold in the 1992 Olympics). Hanson and her teammates are confident — especially after their narrow loss in Lucerne — that they can end that drought.
"It’s definitely a goal we’ve all said out loud," she said. "We go to practice every day thinking, ‘I’m going to work as hard as I can to be a world champion.’"
The women’s national team made headlines off the water recently when they unveiled a new calendar they are selling to help support themselves financially.
"It was so fun," said Hanson, who appears on the cover and on three of the months. "I’m glad it turned out the way it did. It showcases the strength and determination of the women on the national team."
To order a signed copy of the $20 calendar directly from Hanson, email email@example.com.