New-look Canadian team on display at rowing worlds

As the two-year countdown to the 2012 London Olympics begins, the Canadian rowing team's transition period continues as it competes in the world championships in New Zealand, which began Sunday.

As the two-year countdown to the 2012 London Olympics begins, the Canadian rowing team's transition period continues as it competes in the world championships in New Zealand, which began Sunday.

Canada's rowers have experienced a lot of reshuffling since their four-medal performance at the 2008 Olympics, because of retirements and personnel shifts to other crews.

No changes are more noticeable than on the men's eight crew. Only Andrew Byrnes of Toronto remains from that golden squad from Beijing.

Gone are Kevin Light, Ben Rutledge, Jake Wetzel, Malcolm Howard, Dominic Seiterle, Adam Kreek, Kyle Hamilton and coxswain Brian Price.

They are replaced at the worlds with Derek O'Farrell of Montreal, Rob Gibson of Kingston, Ont., Conlin McCabe of Brockville, Ont., Doug Csima of Oakville, Ont., David Calder of Victoria, Will Crothers of Kingston, Anthony Jacob of Vancouver and cox Mark Laidlaw of Mississauga, Ont. Calder won silver in the men's pair at Beijing with Scott Frandsen of Kelowna, B.C.

Rowing on begins its coverage of the world rowing championships at 9:35 p.m. ET on Wednesday and will continue to air the event Thursday through Sunday, beginning at 8:40 p.m. ET each day.

A few of the members were on the squad that won silver at the worlds in 2009, but they face a more difficult task this time around.

The Canadians were fourth in their heat on Tuesday, and will need to compete in the repechage on Thursday in order to advance to the final. Defending world champs Germany as well as Great Britain advanced directly to the final.

The men's eight is one of six Beijing crews who have seen personnel changes.

This transition period doesn't look like it's affected the women's eight too much. The crew, who has four holdovers from the Beijing outfit that finished just out of the medals, won its heat on Tuesday and advanced directly to the final.

Coxswain Lesley Thompson-Willie of London, Ont., Montreal's Andreanne Morin, Darcy Marquardt of Richmond, B.C., and Ashley Brzozowicz of London remain from that 2008 crew.

They are joined in New Zealand by Krista Guloien of Port Moody, B.C., Regina's Rachelle de Jong, Winnipeg's Janine Hanson, Cristy Nurse of Georgetown, Ont., and Vancouver's Emma Darling.

"It's always good to get that first race of the regatta out of the way and secure a spot in the A final," Thompson-Willie told Rowing Canada after the heat. "It's an experienced eight.... A lot of strong new people in the mix with experienced Olympic veterans."

New crews

A couple members of the Beijing men's eight are with new crews. Light, of Sydney, B.C., was supposed to row with the men's four, but due to an injury he's been replaced.

Dan Casaca of Toronto joins Fraser Berkhout of St. Catharines, Ont., Gabe Bergen of 100 Mile House, B.C., and Steve Van Knotsenburg of Beamsville, Ont., on the team, which finished fourth in its heat Monday and will have to race in the repechage.

Victoria's Malcolm Howard, who also won Olympic gold with the men's eight along with silver at the 2009 worlds, is going it alone now in the men's singles. But he was fourth in the repechage on Tuesday and will not row in the final.

Mike Lewis of Victoria is the only holdove0r from the Olympic bronze-winning men's lightweight coxless four crew. He is joined by Terry McKall of Edmonton, Morgan Jarvis of Winnipeg and Tim Myers of Penticton, B.C. They finished fourth in the repechage on Tuesday and didn't advance to the semifinal.

Olympic bronze medallist Tracy Cameron of Shubenacadie, N.S., is hoping to make some noise in the lightweight women's double with new partner Lindsay Jennerich of Victoria. The pair won their heat on Sunday to advance to the semifinal.

"Today Lindsay and I went out on a fact-finding mission," Cameron told Rowing Canada. "We knew it was going to be challenging [due to wind], but it was really nice up at the start. So as long as you got out there and did well in the first 1,000, I think it set you up nicely for when the bad water hit."

Most of Sunday's races were moved to Monday due to high winds.

The only crew that remains unchanged from the 2008 Olympics is the men's lightweight double sculls pair of Doug Vandor of Dewittville, Que., and Cameron Sylvester of Caledon, Ont., who finished a disappointing 12th in Beijing. They dominated their heat and advanced to the semis on Monday.

The new women's quad crew of Jane Rumball of Fredericton, Isolda Penney of Kingston, Ont., Peggy DeVos of Kamloops, B.C., and Emily Cameron of Summerside, P.E.I., finished fifth and was relegated to the repechage.

Women's eight members Morin and Guloien are also competing in the women's pair event, and were fourth in their heat on Monday.

"I'm a bit disappointed. This was not our best race," Morin said. "We have some small technical changes to make and we can close the gap. It's clear that we must be 100 per cent in the race. We're not going to get away with 98 per cent if we want to reach the podium here."

Canada has sent nine crews to the 2010 worlds.