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Ontario rowers win five gold medals at Canada Games

The Canadian Press

8/20/2009 8:18:03 PM

CLINTON, P.E.I. - David Wakulich of St. Catharines, Ont., captured gold in the men's singles Thursday to lead an Ontario parade to the rowing podium at the Canada Summer Games.

Ontario dominated the day with five gold medals and a pair of bronze on the first day of finals on the Southwest River.

"I think we surpassed our expectations. It was an unknown because the heats and reps were all close," said Ontario coach Phil Marshall. "The only thing we expected was that everyone raced to their potential. So overall I'm very happy."

The six-foot-nine Wakulich pulled away midway through the race to cruise to victory ahead of Quebec's Marc-Antoine Provost, who took the silver, and Lucas Baldo of Saskatoon, who won bronze.

"My legs were shaking like crazy, I was really nervous," Wakulich said. "But in the middle of my starting sequence, I could look over at the competition, saw I was pulling away and didn't let off until the finish line really."

Stuart Taylor, Florian Mayr, Cory Machesney, and Ben Cushnie teamed up to win gold for Ontario in the lightweight men's four, while Ontario's quad team of Dan Aziz, Nick Chisholm, Alex Soutter and Nick Schudio also captured gold.

"It's a really strong group," said Aziz. "Unfortunately we didn't have the time that most crews had out here together, but we all know each other from racing each other and we all respect each other because of that and we were able to form a cohesive that usually takes months that's helped us come together and win these tough battles here."

The women's quad crew of Felicia Izaguirre, Sarah Wiley, Rebecca Zimmerman and Laura Cowal won gold for Ontario, along with the women's eight boat of coxswain Emma Dirks, Samantha Kayser, Mariel Boomgaardt, Kristin Falovo, Natalie Mastracci, Sarah Black, Cheryl Copson, Laura Cowal and Britt Ellis captured gold.

"It was such a rush," said Dirks, a native of St. Catharines, Ont. "With the (shorter Games) distance of 1,200 metres it was technically a challenge for me everything had to be mapped out perfectly. But we ended up with a great race plan and it came together perfectly. You just have to go hard as you can and we came together to get the job done."

B.C. rowers picked up a pair of gold medals. Lisa Roman and Sarah Aylard won the women's pair, while Noah O'Connell and Spencer Crowley took the men's pair.

"We were able to stay strong and steady during the race," said Roman, a Langley, B.C., native. "Saskatchewan (who finished second) really kept us on our toes. They were really quick off the start and stayed with us, it was great."

The rowing and canoe/kayak venue at the Canada Games has earned positive reviews, but will be dismantled when the Games end Aug. 29. The venue is built on private land and with a temporary permit from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

Notes: New Brunswick's Greg Theriault of Rothesay and Keegan Drummond of Quispamsis won the province's first medal of the Games, a silver in the men's pair. The pair admitted they felt some added pressure. "It definitely added to the nerves," said Theriault. "But it worked out and it's the highlight of our rowing careers." Their Canada Games coach is former Olympic rower Delores Young.