Ballenas Secondary School graduate Kai Langerfeld had to wait four years for his first chance to compete in the Summer Olympics.
One extra day proved no trouble at all.
Langerfeld and his teammates on Canada’s men’s coxless four rowing team waited out a cancellation of their opening heat Sunday in the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, then on Monday morning moved one step closer to a possible medal by advancing into the semifinals.
“I think for us, if we race the best we can, I actually think we have a really good shot at medalling,” Langerfeld told The NEWS just before his departure to Rio. “And if we have a special race, we realistically could win.”
“I think all four of us believe we can win, and think that’s a pretty realistic goal.”
The Canadians were second in their opening heat, behind defending world champion Italy and just ahead of the U.S. The finish moved Canada into Wednesday morning’s semifinals, where a strong showing could vault the team into the medal final this Friday.
Langerfeld is teamed on a squad nicknamed the “True North Four” with Will Crothers, Conlin McCabe and Tim Schrijver. Crothers and McCabe both won silver medals in the 2012 London Olympics with Canada’s eight-man team before switching to fours.
Canada does not have a strong history in four-man rowing, Langerfeld said, but the team is tight-knit — all three of his teammates attended the University of Washington — and, of course, boasts Olympic experience.
“It was like a huge transition, not only for me but for everybody,” he said of the move into a four-man boat. “The history in Canada is rowing in the eight. I’m not sure who made the decision; they were probably thinking we could go in smaller boats and win more medals. But there’s gonna be a challenge in that.”
The quartet qualified for the Olympics with their fourth-place finish in the 2015 World Championships in France last September, narrowly missing out on a podium finish.
Langerfeld follows in the footsteps of his father, York Langerfeld, who rowed for Canada in the Montreal Games in 1976. But he didn’t exactly grow up in a boat. His first experience with rowing, when his father took him out as a 13-year-old, was nearly his last.
“Initially, I hated it,” said Kai.
It would be eight more years before Langerfeld decided he wanted to get into a team sport and joined the novice team at the University of Victoria, where he transferred after initially attending Camosun College following his graduation from Ballenas.
“Pretty much from the time I started, I knew that was what I was going to do, and I was all-in from there,” he said.
In his second year of competitive rowing, Langerfeld captured two gold medals with the UVic team in the 2010 Canadian University championships, in men’s eights and in coxed pairs. A bronze followed in the 2011 championships, with the UVic eight-man boat.
Later that same season he won a pair of silver medals at the Pan Am Games, and was soon training with the Canadian National Team.
Langerfeld did not make the Canadian Olympic Team for the London Games that summer. But he did compete in the Olympic-year world championships, taking home bronze in the coxed pair.
Since being teamed with Crothers, McCabe and Schrijver in 2014, Langerfeld has won a World Cup medal — his second — and claimed a pair of golds in last year’s Pan Am Games in Toronto.
“I was in their training group in 2012, and the next year when the Canadian Team decided to put a four together, those guys were left over because they didn’t retire,” said Langerfeld.
“I definitely would like to do another Olympics; I’ll do this another four years, for sure,” he said. “But it’s one of those things where you don’t have any idea if someone is going to retire or what else might happen.
“Basically, this is all you focus on. Once you finish the Olympics, it’s kind of a fresh start again.”
And does dad ever give Kai an “I told you so” over his son’s vowing never to row again after that first, ill-fated outing?
“No,” Kai said with a laugh. “But I’m sure he probably thinks that in the back of his mind.”