A year after getting a taste of his first Olympic competition, Kelowna rower Will Dean left on Tuesday for the 2013 World Rowing Championships as the only remaining member of the men’s four that placed 9th at the Olympics last year.
Canada’s rowing contingent that will take part in the 2013 World Rowing Championships in South Korea was announced late last week and Dean will be joined in the four by three rowers that rowed at last year’s Olympics in Canada’s men’s eight that won an Olympic silver.
There is no men’s eight competing for Canada at the worlds this year.
“I don’t know if I look at that as a compliment,” said Dean before he flew to Chungju, South Korea, the site of the 2013 worlds. “I’m definitely just thrilled to have the opportunity to row with these guys. They are all pretty accomplished rowers. They all have an Olympic silver medal and lots of experience. I really like these guys and I’m excited for the opportunity.”
At 26-years-old Dean is entering the prime of his rowing career as well as another four year Olympic cycle that will culminate in 2016 with the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He has previous experience with the three others who will row in the men’s four, having rowed with them at the Under-23 level for Team Canada.
However the team has only practiced together so far and Dean said they are hoping to be a fast combination but he wasn’t willing to make any predictions.
“It’s pretty promising and it’s an exciting boat to be in,” he said. “But it’s tough to know exactly where we stand in the world because it’s a new combination. I think we’re all excited to get out there and see where we stack up against the other countries.”
After graduating from KSS in 2005, Dean went on to star as a member of the University of California Golden Bears rowing team that won a national championship in 2010, his final year at school. Since then the 6-foot-5 powerhouse and the son of Kelowna triathlete JoAnne Ritchie has been rowing full time with Team Canada, first at the Under-23 level and for the past three years as a senior athlete.
He says jumping into a new boat at this time in his development and at the start of another Olympic cycle is a great opportunity.
“I like the fact that I am here for the first year of the (Olympic) quadrennial,” said Dean. “For the last one I kind of came on halfway through. I think this is a pretty cool opportunity starting from the beginning. There is a new coach now and it’s good because there are a few things that he wants to do differently. Some of the changes are pretty exciting. I think I definitely have a lot that I can learn and feel I can get a lot better than I am now.”
With no eight boat going to the world championships, it could mean a shift for Rowing Canada, which for years had named the men’s eight as its top boat at international events. Dean says you never know what boat you will be in and the onus is on the rowers to keep developing and competing at the highest level.
Still he says he is ready for the challenge the next four years will bring, starting with the worlds this month.
“I’m really optimistic and excited about this whole four years,” he said. “There has been a lot of changes that our new coach has made to the way we are doing things. We are approaching the worlds with what I would call technical aggression. We want to row as fast as we can with a slightly new technique. It’s a fun challenge and all of us want to do as well as we can.”
The worlds take place from Aug. 25 to Sept. 1 and the Canadian contingent has flown straight to the site of the rowing regatta to hold practice races prior to the event.