The Island rowers competed against Trevor Jones, who recently won the under-23 world title, Tuesday at the Canada Games in Kenora, Ont.
“Lining up next to him, who’s probably six-foot-eight, 250 (pounds) was kind of scary, but it was a good experience,” said the five-foot-11, 150-pound Russell MacLean.
“We’re racing against some future Olympians here and it’s been a great experience,” DeWolfe added.
As the rowers approached their teammates and family watching from the shore, they could hear the support loud and clear.
“It’s a hard race, it’s a long race and you’re really trying to put everything out there and you need some help,” Russell MacLean said. “When I heard them cheering for me, I picked up the pace and I went really hard because I knew they had my back.”
Team P.E.I.’s six rowers, two coaches and a manager flew with the Island contingent to Winnipeg and then were bussed to Kenora, about 2 ½ hours east. They are in a satellite village in Kenora while most of the rest of the Island teams are in Winnipeg.
“It’s kind of a different experience, I guess, but it’s really nice to connect with other rowers,” said Russell MacLean, an 18-year-old Stratford native.
While both said it would be nice to be in Winnipeg to cheer on the rest of Team P.E.I., they have known for a while they would be in Kenora when the Games began.
“We knew we weren’t going to be there and just kind of accepted it because we came to row and that’s why we’re here.”
The Island’s five-member sailing team is also in a satellite village in Gimli, Man., about 45 minutes from Winnipeg.
Satellite villages are used when the travelling distance to a venue is too far to make it feasible for participants to travel from the athletes’ village. It is similar to 2009 when some of the diving events were held in Halifax while the Games were hosted in Prince Edward Island.
The last time P.E.I. had athletes in a satellite village was 2011 when Halifax was hosting. Athletes competing in downhill skiing stayed in Truro, about 30 minutes from the venue in Wentworth.
In Kenora and Gimli, the teams are staying at high schools.
“The accommodations are actually great. The high schools are much better than I would have thought,” DeWolfe said.
This is the first rowing nationals for both DeWolfe and Russell MacLean. DeWolfe, an 18-year-old Cornwall native, said it has been a great learning experience.
“This is our first two-kilometre race. We’ve learned many things . . . and we’re improving each time we do it,” he said.
“Ontario and B.C. are just on a completely other level of competition,” added Russell MacLean. “It’s definitely challenging, but we’re trying to do our best.”
The rowers were able to take part in Friday’s opening ceremonies and it was easy to tell it had a big impact on the athletes.
“I was very energized at the opening ceremonies by the spirit of Team P.E.I. and I think that has carried through right to Kenora for myself,” DeWolfe said.
Russell MacLean called the opening ceremonies an “incredible experience.”
“We were chanting in the tunnel (before entering the arena) and I think we were the loudest province,” he said. “I definitely learned that we are small, but we are very proud.”
Need to know
A look at the Canada Games rowing competition.
Where – Kenora Rowing Club in Kenora, Ont. Rabbit Lake is a 2,200 metre long spring-fed lake that is wide enough to accommodate seven racing lanes with warm-up and cool-down areas.
Race distance – 2,000 metres.
History – Rowing was first included in the Canada Games in 1969 in Halifax-Dartmouth.
Island rower Tristan Russell MacLean said: “It definitely is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us, to be representing our province at the highest level, so we’re just trying to make the most out of it.”
Did you know? Former NHLer Mike Richards is from Kenora, Ont.
Tuesday’s results from the Canada Games rowing competition.
Single scull female
Ailish Bergin 9:16
Ailish Bergin 9:40.29
Double sculls male
Donald DeWolfe/Tristan Russell MacLean 7:59.5
Donald DeWolfe/Tristan Russell MacLean 7:57.78
Double sculls female
Molly Rainnie/Caroline Tweel 8:51.90
Molly Rainnie/Caroline Tweel 9:02.22