Craig Wu was nervous last weekend, which was nothing new.
The run-up to a race always has that effect on Wu, who competes for the Chicago Rowing Union, the area’s LGBT crew organization.
“I always have nerves when I go into a race,” he said. “I kind of get the feeling that once you’re out on the water and you’re sitting at the starting line, it goes away.”
This, however, wasn’t just another event for Wu and his CRU teammates. It was the Canadian National Masters Championships at the Olympic Basin in Montreal — the venue for the Olympic rowing events in 1976 — and it also was CRU’s first international competition.
The results were more than encouraging: CRU entered three boats with two finishing first and the other taking third.
“Every win we got under our belts increased our confidence in what we can do,” Wu said. “It’s a morale boost for our younger members.”
Wu teamed with Bill Moudry, Philip Hedrei and Zach Morrison, along with coxswain Anthony Chacon, in the Men’s Masters 4A+ division, finishing first over the 1,000-meter course in 3:28.56. The Masters 4B+ team of Justin DiGiamberdine, Bill Atwell, Randy Mitchell, Paulo Son and cox Ashley Salbeck took third in 3:56.74.
Those eight rowers, with Salbeck as cox, then won the Masters 8+ race by a boat length.
The idea for CRU to head north of the border came about earlier this year. Hedrie, a former CRU rower, has been a satellite member since moving to Montreal, where he works with athletes at McGill University.
Hedrie came back to work with CRU at some local events, including the Chicago Sprints in early July. “He said we should come up for the Canadian championships,” Wu said.
That encouragement wasn’t all Hedrie offered. He also helped to arrange for boats for CRU to race in Montreal. And he obviously contributed to the two victories.
That CRU was able to win with a member who didn’t take part in all the workouts leading up to Montreal shows Wu and his teammates went about things the right way. “I definitely think training has a huge part in our success this weekend,” he said, noting that other CRU members helped the teams prepare in Hedrie’s absence.
Next up for CRU is a short break before Head Season, when the rowers will compete in longer races through Halloween before heading inside for the winter.
“It sets a good wave of momentum,” Wu said.
And maybe the memory of it will help ease Wu’s mind a bit next time out.