August 18, 2017

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Row, row, row a boat gently down the Red

One of the last things you want to do is catch a crab

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Steve Lyons and Janine Stephens prepare to launch at the Winnipeg Rowing Club. </p>

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Steve Lyons and Janine Stephens prepare to launch at the Winnipeg Rowing Club.

I learned a few new sports terms this week. Phrases such as let it run; catch, recovery and release; Erg workout; feathering the blade; and to catch a crab. Or more importantly, to avoid catching one.

The Winnipeg Rowing Club invited me out for an intro-to-rowing session with Olympic silver medallist Janine Stephens, and as a first-timer, I was going to need a bit of a tutorial prior to rowing down the river.

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Free Press sports editor Steve Lyons and former Olympian Janine Stephens row the Red River.</p>

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Free Press sports editor Steve Lyons and former Olympian Janine Stephens row the Red River.

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Free Press Sports editor Steve Lyons gets an introduction to rowing from Olympian Janine Stephens at the Winnipeg Rowing Club. </p>

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Free Press Sports editor Steve Lyons gets an introduction to rowing from Olympian Janine Stephens at the Winnipeg Rowing Club.

I had done a bit of investigating of my own in the days leading up to Tuesday morning’s row on the Red. OK, I admit it: I was a little worried about this whole rowing thing — yeah, about falling into the water. I looked at YouTube videos; I chatted with folks who had previously tried it. The recurring theme was the boats are "tippy." Great.

I had been advised by friends and co-workers to make sure I did everything possible to avoid falling into the murky waters, and if I did, to make sure and keep my mouth closed — turns out not catching a crab is a big key to not catching something else.

To catch a crab in rowing is a term used to describe when the oar blade gets caught in the water during the catch, recovery and release sequence. It is caused by a momentary flaw in oar technique. A crab may be minor, allowing the rower to quickly recover, or it may be so jarring the rower is tossed from the boat.

The first lesson of the day was getting the boat — a double scull named Spirit of the Rileys — into the water, and the next step was getting into the vessel on the water. I can report both those missions were accomplished without a hitch. After pushing off and practising the stroke sequence, Stephens tells me she often donates personal rowing classes at fundraising auctions. The participants are generally novices like myself. She hasn’t tipped yet.. "and, I’m not planning to today." Phew! Wish I’d known that in the week leading up to Tuesday.

The 30-minute row takes us from the club’s dock on Lyndale Drive down the Red River under the Queen Elizabeth Bridge and back. Caught a couple of crabs, but nothing that sent Janine and I into the drink — she gets all the credit for this.

I’ve always admired the grace of rowing, whether it’s been viewing our decorated Olympians on television or watching from shore as a group of rowers gently row down the stream. To actually be sculling was an exhilarating experience; an incongruent combination of excitement and serenity. The perspective from the river is a unique one that should not be missed.

I also had a perception of rowing as being a high-brow sport reserved for the elite — the Cambridge, Yale and Oxford types. The rest of us should get a canoe or kayak. As if often the case in this little melon, my perception is not, in fact, reality. The Winnipeg Rowing Club regularly offers classes, and according to Stephens, there are folks from all walks of life — plenty of high school students and a lot of 40-somethings — enrolling in the club’s Learn to Row programs.

The best description of the club appears on its website: At 136 years old, the Winnipeg Rowing Club is one of the oldest sporting organizations in Western Canada. It has been in operation since 1881, stopping only twice — during WWI and WWII. A longtime tenant of the banks of the Red River in downtown Winnipeg, the WRC survived the North-West Rebellion of 1885, the General Strike of 1919, the Great Depression of the 1930s, the Great Flood of 1950, and the Flood of the Century in 1997. Over the years, the clubhouse has been destroyed by fire, wind, and water, but has always managed to maintain its long and proud tradition. Today, the WRC is a non-profit organization with a rich and successful sporting history, fostering generations of camaraderie and friendships. Members range in age from early teens right up to the 80s, and the club offers programs for all skill levels.

Prior to my intro row, a friend said to me, "You’re quite blessed to have the opportunity to have all these neat experiences." That is definitely true — but you can, too. The Learn to Row schedule runs to the end of August, and in my opinion, it’s priced a lot more reasonably than I would have anticipated ($185 plus GST and fees).

Stephens has plenty on her plate this summer. Along with her duties as president of the WRC and taking me out for a row, she is head coach of the Manitoba rowing team that will participate at the upcoming Canada Summer Games. She hopes to have a team of 17 rowers for the Games and is anticipating a strong effort from the local competitors.

The rowing competition of the Games will be held at the Kenora Rowing Club from July 31 to Aug. 4 and entry to all events is free.

I’m looking forward to this summer’s Games and hope to get out and watch some of the rowing — I have a feeling it will take on new meaning now that I’ve had the chance to try it myself.

Perhaps a triathlon next week?

On the Home Front...

● A group of student athletes was recently presented with $1,000 scholarships — donated by McDonald’s — for demonstrating exceptional leadership in high school sport and school and community involvement while maintaining a minimum 75 per cent average in their studies.

The female recipients were Bailey Paziuk of Ste. Rose School, Shayna Timmerman of Treherne Collegiate, Jessica Edel of Morris School, Kailen Ledochowski of Teulon Collegiate, Carrie Livingston of Sanford Collegiate, Danielle Algera of Calvin Christian School, Ariana Streu of River East Collegiate, and Taylor Kleysen of Vincent Massey Collegiate (Winnipeg).

The male recipients were Riley Enns of Carman Collegiate, Rylan Metcalf of Carman Collegiate, Carson Ouellette of Stonewall Collegiate, Luke Bossuyt of Sanford Collegiate, Ryan Eisbrenner of St. John’s-Ravenscourt School, Cole Penner of Garden City Collegiate, Dylan Sutherland of Vincent Massey High School (Brandon), and Riley Francey of Garden City Collegiate.

● Bisons track and field coach Claude Berube has been tasked with leading Team Canada at the 2017 Summer Universiade in Chinese Taipei from Aug. 19-30. It’s the fourth time the veteran coach has been head coach of the Canadian track and field team at the FISU Games.

"I have a busy summer ahead for me with Canada Summer Games, Canadian Track and Field Championships and the final part of the summer will be capped with a two-week trip to Chinese Taipei after being named Canadian coach for the Summer Universiade," Berube said in a press release. "It is pretty exciting as I have been involved in these Games before, and it is also exciting to work with athletes that is of the same age group that we work with year-round."

● Local speedskater Tyson Langelaar was named Rising Star of the Year — Long Track by Speed Skating Canada at an awards gala last weekend in Toronto.

Langelaar won four medals — one silver and three bronze — at the world junior championships in Helsinki earlier this year.

On the horizon

After a lull on the local sports scene for most of May and the first few weeks of June, there’s plenty to keep your eye on over the next 10 weeks. Here’s a few things we’re sending staff out to cover for you..

● NHL drafts: the Vegas Golden Knights will reveal their expansion draft picks on Wednesday in Vegas in conjunction with the league’s annual awards ceremony. Winnipeg Jets winger Patrik Laine is up for rookie of the year, but faces stiff competition from Toronto Maple Leafs centre Auston Matthews, who seems to be a shoe-in to win. On Friday in Chicago, teams will go farming for prospects when the annual entry draft is held. Winnipegger Nolan Patrick is expected to go first or second overall, and our Jason Bell will be in the Windy City to provide you with all the details. Unless they make a deal, the Jets have the 13th pick in the proceedings.

● Ready for some football: the Winnipeg Blue Bombers have a bye in Week 1 of CFL action and will have to wait until Canada Day to get their season started. Jeff Hamilton will be heading west to bring you coverage from the first regular-season game against the Saskatchewan Roughriders at the new Mosaic Stadium in Regina. The Riders open their season in Montreal.

● Hottest Summer in Half a Century: the 2017 Canada Summer Games are scheduled here July 28 to Aug. 13. We’ll provide you daily coverage of all the events and team announcements prior to the Games, and then have comprehensive coverage throughout the event from Jason Bell and our Vince Leah intern Taylor Allen. Taylor has worked at the Sport Manitoba building for several years, and said in his interview for the Vince Leah gig, he’d be able to give us the inside scoop on the Games. Looking forward to that!

steve.lyons@freepress.mb.ca

Read more by Steve Lyons.

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