Agata Minka and Anya Prokopchuk won double gold medals at the 2022 BC Summer Games in Prince George last month. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)

Agata Minka and Anya Prokopchuk won double gold medals at the 2022 BC Summer Games in Prince George last month. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)

Cowichan Valley rowers bring home double gold from BC Summer Games

Duo got their start with Maple Bay Rowing Club

Anya Prokopchuk started rowing with the Maple Bay Rowing Club four years ago. A year after that, she brought her friend, Agata Minka, along to try the sport.

Last month, the girls won double gold medals together at the 2022 BC Summer Games in Prince George. They rowed to first place in the U17 girls double, and teamed up with Kaden Carlson of Victoria and Radley Finer of North Saanich to match that feat in the U17 mixed quad.

Prokopchuk’s first experience was a Learn to Row camp at the MBRC, although she did have family connections to the sport before that.

“My aunt rowed in university,” she noted. “I think most people who get into rowing have a connection because it’s not a well-known sport.”

What Prokopchuk loves about the sport is “the feeling of going fast just slightly above the water. You can’t get that anywhere else.”

Prokopchuk eventually brought Minka, a friend from church, to the club, and she was “completely hooked” the first time she went.

“I like how everyone is working together perfectly to move as fast as possible,” she commented.

To qualify for the Zone 6 (Vancouver Island-Central Coast) team at the BC Games, the rowers had to go through several stages, beginning with a 2km test on a rowing machine and proceeding through a series of races on Elk Lake. The 13 rowers who represented Vancouver Island came from a variety of clubs, each with their own techniques, and Prokopchuk and Minka admitted that “it feels a bit different” to race along with rowers from other organizations, as they had to do in the mixed quad.

Rowing was “low key” at the BC Games, they noted, although Rowing BC did a good job of setting up the events at a Boy Scouts camp on Nadsilnich Lake, south of Prince George. Although there were only four boats in the U17 girls double — two from Zone 6 and two from Zone 2 (Thompson-Okanagan) — they had to go through a series of four races: time trial, heat, semifinal and final, with Prokopchuk and Minka finishing first in all four. The U17 mixed quad had seven boats, and went straight from heats to the final, with Prokopchuk, Minka, Carlson and Finer recording the best times in both races.

Reflecting on the experience, Prokopchuk and Minka sent a shout out to the other Zone 6 rowers, the Maple Bay Rowing Club, current MBRC head coach Andrew Rae, and former head coach Cheryl Thibodeau, who was the first coach for both girls.

Prokopchuk is now leading the same Learn to Row camps where she got her start four years ago, coaching both youth and adult athletes.

There are three week-long youth (ages 12-18) camps left, running from Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m., starting on Aug. 8, 15 and 22.

Adult camps run throughout August on evenings from Monday to Thursday, with multiple intakes.

All details can be found on the MBRC website (maplebayrowingclub.ca) or by emailing Andrew Rae at arae9593@gmail.com

BC GamesBC Summer GamesRowing