Skip to main content
Access every election story that matters
Enjoy unlimited digital access
$1.99
per week for 24 weeks
Access every election story that matters
Enjoy unlimited digital access
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
// //

Canada’s Lisa Roman, Kasia Gruchalla-Wesierski, Christine Roper, Andrea Proske, Susanne Grainger, Madison Mailey, Sydney Payne, Avalon Wasteneys and Kristen Kit celebrate on the podium after winning the gold medal in women’s eight rowing competition at the Tokyo Olympics.

Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

Every gold medal is sweet, but there is nothing like the pure bliss of winning when no one expected you to.

Canada’s days as a rowing power were long behind it. At the most recent world championships, the women’s eight finished a not-particularly-close fourth. The pandemic hasn’t tended to improve anyone’s performance.

But what happens on the day, in this particular case, for six minutes, is all that matters.

Story continues below advertisement

Mid-morning on Friday, Tokyo time, Lisa Roman, Kasia Gruchalla-Wesierski, Christine Roper, Andrea Proske, Susannne Grainger, Madison Mailey, Sydney Payne, Avalon Wasteneys and coxswain Kristen Kit returned this country to gold-medal territory and rowing glory.

Canada’s Caileigh Filmer and Hillary Janssens capture bronze in women’s pair

Rowers looking to pull Canada back on the Olympic podium in Tokyo

Defending world champion New Zealand was second. It was a very near thing – less than a second separating the boats after two kilometres of head-to-head racing. The bronze was another surprise – China.

It ended with what surely will be one of the great images of these Games – Kit, the cox, leaping to her feet in the boat, all 18 or so inches across of it. She threw herself into the arms of the closest rower to her, and then jumped up to wildly pump her fists.

If it was a gold-medal performance of rowing, it was followed by a gold-medal performance of balance on watercraft.

Coxswain Kristen Kit celebrates with the rest of Canada's women's eight rowing team after winning gold at the Tokyo Olympics on Friday, July 30, 2021.

Lee Jin-man/The Associated Press

The rowing medal pushed Canada’s gold-medal count to three, all won by women. In fact, every medal here has been won by a woman.

Don’t worry. There are men here in Tokyo wearing the Maple Leaf. Maybe they’re just late sleepers.

All golds are emotional as well, but this one seemed even moreso. After the usual clichés – “gutsy race”, “executed” the plan – it was left to Kit to sum up the accomplishment.

Story continues below advertisement

“We came out on the course today representing a legacy,” she said.

Kit called out several of the Canadian heroes of the ‘92 Games, including Tokyo 2020 chef de mission, Marnie McBean, and her rowing partner, Kathleen Heddle.

Heddle died this year, aged only 55, of cancer.

“We continued that legacy today,” Kit said.

At that point, most of the other winners standing behind her were weeping. It was a profoundly Olympic moment.

It was also an important reminder as we near the halfway mark of this event – traditionally the point at which attention begins to flag.

Story continues below advertisement

That even when the Games disappoint, the athletes never do.

Canada's gold medallists in women’s eight rowing celebrate during the medal ceremony.

PIROSCHKA VAN DE WOUW/Reuters

Sign up for The Globe’s Olympic newsletter and follow all of the news, features and opinion in the leadup to the Summer Games in Tokyo.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies