NORTH Vancouver rower Lauren Wilkinson scored Olympic silver Thursday, helping the Canadian women's eight boat to a second-place showing on Lake Dorney behind a powerhouse United States team.
The Canadians made a late charge in the final to try to reel in the U.S. team, the defending Olympic champs, who are undefeated in international competition since 2005, but came up just short.
Though gold was their ultimate goal, the Canadians were all smiles as they received their silvers medals, mementos that will cap all of the grueling hours of training and pain they put in to pull themselves onto the podium.
"You know that feeling you get when you first wake up in the morning and nothing feels real?" Wilkinson said after receiving her medal. "That's what it feels like now. I know we gave what we had, and we emptied the tank. But it still hasn't hit this was an Olympic final."
Wilkinson, 22, is the youngest member of the team and one of only two Olympic rookies on the crew.
For several of the other Canadian rowers, the win avenged the disappointment of finishing fourth at the 2008 Olympic Games. While many were looking back at demons vanquished from Beijing, Wilkinson was already looking ahead.
"It's an amazing group of women that I've had the privilege to row with, and we gave it our all, no regrets," she said. "Fuel to the fire for 2016!"
Wilkinson is the baby of a Lynn Valley family of rowers.
Her father David was set to compete in the 1980 Olympics but never got the chance after Canada joined the boycott of the Moscow Games following the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan.
David and wife Susan, herself a national-level rower, moved on from that disappointment to start their own little crew.
First came Jerome and then Michael, and soon Lauren was watching from the shore as her older brothers were training at the Burnaby Lake Rowing Club.
It didn't take Lauren long to talk her way onto her own boat, and her career took off from there.
Rowing took her to Princeton where last year she graduated with a degree in ecology and evolutionary biology while leading the Tigers to the NCAA rowing title. She also helped Canada win gold in women's eight at the under-23 world championships and, in the process, put herself in contention for the senior Olympic crew.
The eight is Canada's glamour boat, where the best of the best go, and now Wilkinson is one of them and an Olympic silver medalist.