Gauthier golden: Locals and Brock athletes shine at NRCs
Payton Gauthier won the junior men’s single at the recent National Rowing Championships in Victoria, B.C. Photos by Kevin Light.
Payton Gauthier continues to be a trailblazer for the Niagara Falls Rowing Club.
In the summer, the 18-year-old Niagara Falls resident became the first member of the club to compete at the world championships when he was chosen for Canada’s quad at the World Rowing Junior Championships in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, in August.
Two weekends ago, the Grade 12 students at Saint Michael became the first club member to win a national championship following his victory in the junior men’s single at the National Rowing Championships on Elk Lake in Victoria, B.C.
“Races went well,” Gauthier said. “This was my first time competing at NRCs so I wasn’t sure where I would stand in comparison to everyone competing. I went into time trials with the goal of making top 24 to secure a position in the A to D finals.”
Gauthier surprised himself by being the top junior in the time trial and finishing seventh overall.
“I was happy with the position I put myself in leading into quarter-finals,” he said. “Going into quarters, I knew I had less race experience and speed against u23 and senior athletes so my main priority was keeping my position as top junior.”
Once again he shocked himself by winning his heat and recording the second fastest time overall.
“I was exhilarated to now be in the A/B semis,” he said. “Semis was a tough race that tested my abilities and I was happy with how I executed the race but came up short of the A final by just one second.”
Competing in the B final, Gauthier had to beat fellow Canadian quad member Giancarlo DiPompeo of the St. Catharines Rowing Club to capture the junior national crown.
“It was an aggressive race from start to finish, neither me or Giancarlo wanted to let the other win and it came down to the last 250 where I was able to just pull ahead and secure the position as the top junior,” Gauthier said. “I was in disbelief after I crossed the line as I never would have imagined myself in this position.”
He was thrilled to end his 2021 season and under-19 career with a Canadian crown.
“I look back at all the training I have had leading up to this moment,” Gauthier said. “If it wasn’t for my coaches Greg Szybka and William Mulcahy and fellow athletes from the Ontario Performance Centre as well as my original club, the Niagara Falls Rowing Club, I am confident I would not be in this position.”
Now back in Niagara, he is beginning to transition into the winter season.
“This winter I intend to use the motivation I built up from NRCs and transfer it throughout the season preparing for the spring,” Gauthier said. “I am hoping to make some big gains on the erg by cutting time on my 2k and 6k and improving my overall fitness. I am excited to use this winter of erging and training with the ONG (Ontario NextGen) group to prepare myself for this upcoming spring season and trial period for U23 worlds.”
The junior men’s single produced an all-Niagara podium with DiPompeo finishing second and Owen Bartel earning bronze.
DiPompeo, an 18-year-old Thorold native, was also a member of Canada’s quad at the junior worlds. At the recent Canadian University Rowing Championships, the Denis Morris grad captured gold in the lightweight men’s double and the lightweight men’s coxed four.
Bartel, a St. Catharines Rowing Club member, was Eden’s junior oarsmen of the year in 2020.
In the men’s para PR3 pair, James Kwinecki teamed with Dawson Mork of Victoria to win gold. The St. Catharines resident and Governor Simcoe grad is now part of the national team training group in Victoria preparing for the 2024 Paralympics in Paris. The former Brock University rower transferred to the University of Victoria.
In the men’s pair, Eden grad Steven Rosts, the 2020-21 captain of the University of Washington men’s team, teamed with Adam Krol to win silver. The 21-year-old Jordan native and Ridley Graduate Boat Club competed for Canada in the single at the under-23 worlds in Račice in the Czech Republic. Krol won a gold medal in the Canadian men’s four at the 2021under-23 worlds.
Competing in his first race in more than two years, 27-year-old St. Catharines native Matt Finley placed fourth in the open men’s single. The former Ontario University Athletics and Canadian University Rower of the Year is returning to the National Team Training Centre in a bid to represent Canada at the 2024 Olympics. Finley rowed for Canada in the single at the 2019 Pan Am Games in Peru.
Brock University rowers also had a great showing at nationals.
Guelph native Stephen Harris not only won the under-23 lightweight men’s single but also the open lightweight single. Just one second back of Harris in both races to earn two silvers was Thomas Markewich, a Regina native. Freshman athlete Connor Dodds placed fifth overall rowing as Saskatchewan as part of his preparation for the Canada Summer Games 2022 while Jonathan Cinquina (London) was seventh and Jared Boles (Grimsby) was eighth.
The open men’s single had 60 entries and London native Sam Stewart won the gold medal in the under-23 division division and was second overall. Team mates Michael Ciepiela (Toronto) came 10th in the under-23 division and 17th overall, while Oskars Rugelis (Lielupe, Latvia) placed 11th in the under-23 division and 18th overall.