The highest placing Yukoner in the first week of the Canada Summer Games wasn’t on Team Yukon.
Whitehorse’s Tomas Jirousek twice rowed to top-five finishes with Quebec teammates last week in Winnipeg.
He is the first Yukoner ever to compete in rowing at the Canada Games, sources say.
Jirousek and crewmates placed fourth in the men’s eight with coxswain and fifth in the in the men’s four, less than half a second behind fourth place’s Manitoba.
“I really loved the experience,” said Jirousek. “I was a little disappointed in the results of the men’s four, because we had a better time than Manitoba in our preliminary trial, but it was still a great experience. It wasn’t the results we were looking for in the four, but it was still a great experience, nonetheless.”
Jirousek has rowed for McGill University in Montreal the last two years. The 19-year-old always thought he’d play hockey at university — he was an accomplished goalie — but a knee condition forced him to hang up his skates. So instead he took up rowing in his freshman year.
Jirousek was spotted by a Team Quebec coach while rowing for his Montreal summer team at a regatta in June and was asked to tryout for the province’s Games team.
“One of Team Quebec’s coaches said he saw me at the regatta and they approached me there about coming to some camps for them,” said Jirousek. “So over June I would go to this little town, Knowlton, and do fitness tests for them and went on the water a couple times so they could see me and take some times … and I met their standards so they offered me a spot on the team.”
Jirousek admits that it was a bit odd, as a lifelong Yukoner, being at the Games on Team Quebec. But that feeling was mitigated by the fact he was the only one from the territory in the rowing competition last week.
“It was partially made better by the fact that there were no Yukon athletes in my event, so I never had to compete against Yukon,” said Jirousek. “I was a Yukoner from Quebec, I guess you could say.”
Jirousek, who is going into his third year of study at McGill, will attend a training camp in a couple weeks in preparation for his school’s fall race season.
Last season his men’s eight team finished third at the Ontario University Athletics championship regatta in November.
“He is a great person to have on your team or in your boat,” said Quebec rowing coach Andrea Wilson in an email to the News. “Along with being a hard worker, he is always upbeat and positive, looking at every situation constructively.”
Contact Tom Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org