As Canada won its first rowing medal at the Tokyo Olympics, Cloverdale won its first medal too.
Cloverdale’s Hillary Janssens and her rowing partner, Victoria’s Caileigh Filmer, earned a bronze in the women’s pair July 29.
Janssens (27) and Filmer (24) led the gold-medal race after both the 500- and 1,000-metre marks, but slipped to second late in the final, finally holding on to third to secure the bronze medal behind first-place New Zealand and second-place Russia.
“I don’t remember too much,” Janssens told the Canadian Press. “All we could really see was the British and we knew the Kiwis were definitely up on us a little bit.”
Janssens said their goal was to, “Stay clean, stay in the lane, and empty the tanks, because that’s what we trained for.”
Filmer told the Canadian Press, “The first 1,000 (metres) was about being physical. And the second half was about rowing with our heart. I’m just proud.”
Janssens grew up in Cloverdale. She went to Cloverdale Catholic School and then attended Lord Tweedsmuir, graduating in 2012, before heading off to UBC.
Her parents run Nicomekl Farms, a dairy farm on 184th Street. Nicomekl Farms was established in 1957 and the family converted it to an organic dairy farm by 2008.
Mom Sandy Janssens said the whole family, including Hillary’s dad David and grandmother Willamene, were elated with the medal win. Sandy said family and friends came over for a viewing party at the farm to watch the women’s pair final.
“We had so many friends and family cheering them on. Her grandmother, who is almost 92-years-old, was here cheering them on,” said Sandy. “Hillary went to Cloverdale Catholic school and a lot of the parents of her old friends and a couple of her old teachers were all here cheering her on. We had a barbeque afterwards. So it was pretty nice.”
Sandy said Hillary already sent her a picture with her medal. “She was in doping control. A lot of athletes get tested after the race. She told me she felt great.”
Sandy added the girls are really happy with the medal, as it’s been a long stressful journey to get to the Tokyo podium.
“They were hoping for silver or gold, but bronze is great. They’re so relieved,” Sandy explained. “It’s been a long time coming. Shortly after the race, Hillary and Caileigh were being interviewed on TV and Hillary said, ‘It’s been a hard, extra year of training, very hard extra year of training.’ And then they were both crying.”
She said training for the girls is a full-time job. And she said their Olympic path was contorted with physical hardships the pair had to overcome.
Because of their long road to Tokyo, Sandy was on the edge of her seat for the girls’ entire Olympic run, but she said the stress and anxiety dissipated as the final race approached.
“We were just hoping they’d pull something off and they sure did,” she said. “It is stressful being a parent because you can’t do anything to help them. They are on their own.”
Sandy said Hillary played basketball in high school and only took up rowing when she got to UBC. She said Hillary got her undergrad in science and hopes to go to medical school next.
“Now that the Olympics is over she can focus on something different.”
Sports seems to run in the Janssens’ blood. Hillary’s uncle Mark Janssens is a former Surrey Eagle and played in the NHL for a few different teams from 1988-2001.
The Janssens and Filmer bronze was the first medal for Canada in the women’s pair since the 1992 Olympics when Canada took a bronze in the Barcelona games.