It was after watching the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio when Rohin Kanwal decided to exchange his hockey stick for a rowing oar. Now he is a multi-medal winner at the prestigious Royal Canadian Henley Regatta.
Kanwal teamed up with Elijah Brown, Jaxon Bailey and Frank Luo to capture the U17 boys quad event earlier this month on Martindale Pond, in St. Catharines, Ont.
Kanwal would reach the podium again, this time teaming with Brown to earn bronze in U17 doubles.
“Rohin switched from hockey to rowing at the age of 13. This was a big deal in the hockey world because hockey is so entrenched in Canadian culture, that a kid would switch to rowing! Just didn't make sense for a lot of parents,” explained his father Ricky Kanwal. “But at the end of the day, Rohin made the decision based on watching the Canadian Olympic rowers in Brazil on television.
“I remember the beginner coach mention that Rohin was a natural at rowing so, it was obvious Rohin saw something in rowing that appealed to him.”
The gold medal winning quad crew came together just two months earlier to train with Thunder Rowing — the youth program based out of the UBC Boathouse in Richmond — under coach Vince Amedeo and assistant Mike Lattimer — father of national team rowers Maxwell and Aaron Lattimer.
Having been battling against each other at past regattas, the boys didn’t know what to expect. However, it didn’t take long to develop chemistry.
A strong showing in their debut at the B.C. Championships a few weeks later in Victoria, proved they could be a force to be reckoned with.
The team proceeded with an intense training schedule for the six weeks leading up to the 137th edition of the Royal Canadian Henley — daily four-hour sessions that got underway at 6 a.m.
Going into the heats in St. Catharines, no one had a clue who these guys were.
The U.S. and Ontario crews were considered the favourites. The Thunder had other plans.
After topping all the heats with the best clocking, the boys advanced to the semi-finals where they won their heat again. They entered the final with the third fastest time.
The following day, the boys arrived at the regatta in beast mode and fully believing that they could do this. No luck involved, just hard work and determination.
They began the race slightly behind the Don Rowing club (Toronto) and Crescent Rowing (Philadelphia). As the race progressed they were third at the 1000m mark, then second at the 1500M. The boys then turned on the heat beating two of the top boats in North America by a boat length and a half to be crowned champions!
The Thunder’s U19 men’s quad — featuring Jack Lee Zhang, Colin Montgomery, Emre Alca, and Quinn Storey — captured silver in another exciting race.