Less than two years after taking up the sport, Kieanna Stephens has an international rowing medal to hang on her wall.
On Sunday at World Rowing Junior Championships in Trakai, Lithuania, the South Surrey teenager – a hockey player whose rowing skills were discovered through the RBC Training Ground program – won bronze in women’s double sculls alongside partner Grace VandenBroek.
In the race, South Africa jumped out to an early lead, but Stephens – who rows out of the Burnaby Lake Rowing Club – and VandenBroek caught up and passed the leaders at the 500-m mark. The Canadian duo held the lead until the second half of race, when they were caught by Great Britain and Germany, and eventually slipped to third.
The bronze was the first world-junior medal for both young rowers.
“Despite our lack of time in this sport, we knew that we were capable of doing something amazing,” Stephens said in a Rowing Canada news release.
“The only question was, how amazing?”
In the spring of 2016, Stephens won, through the Training Ground program, a trip to the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, where she was able to get a taste of the Olympic Games. Then, last December – just 10 months after first being identified as a potential Olympian – Stephens was one of 25 young Canadians, and the only B.C. resident, to be shortlisted for further development by a handful of Canadian sport organizations, including Rowing Canada, Athletics Canad, Bobsleigh Canada and others.