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Greater Victoria junior girls rowing team nabs first in national Row to Tokyo challenge

Young Victoria City Rowing Club members row more than 2,250 km
Paddles sit stacked and ready at a rowing regatta on Elk Lake in 2018. (Black Press Media file photo)

Over the course of two weeks, six young athletes from the Victoria City Rowing Club (VCRC) pulled more than 2,250 metres – nabbing first place in a national Row to Tokyo challenge.

On April 19, 30 teams from across Canada kicked off the Rowing Canada Aviron event that challenged participants to row the 7,575-kilometre distance between the national training centre on Vancouver Island and the site of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

VCRC junior team members Willow Tzonev, Eryn Wale, Tegan Zecher, Stella Graham, Quinn Parfitt and Hui-Lin Shan – all between the ages of 13 and 17 – collectively rowed 2,250.6 kilometres on rowing machines before the competition ended May 2 and earned first place.

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Because of COVID-19, the club moved all the rowing machines and equipment outside and spaced it out, said Katie Steenman, director of VCRC junior rowing. During the Row to Tokyo challenge, the weather was nice but the athletes have rowed through snow, rain and wind this year.

Over the final weekend, the athletes spent nearly 16 hours per day at the boathouse on Elk Lake to get in as many kilometres as they could. Their last push got them the closest to Tokyo and earned the club a new indoor rowing machine. The second-place team, the University of Calgary Rowing Club, finished with 1,836.8 kilometres – 413.8 kilometres short – and all 30 teams collectively rowed 17,410.6 kilometres.

Hot off their win, the team is kicking off a club-wide fundraiser for a new vessel that seats eight rowers and a coxswain to replace one bought in 2004. The club will need to raise $45,000 for the new boat.

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The fundraiser “will bring motivation and excitement to a difficult year with all regattas cancelled so far,” Steenman said. “This will be a cool, achievable goal that COVID-19 can’t take away from us.”

Donations for the new boat can be made at and more information about the VCRC can be found at

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