Sport

Hillier sweats on future of lightweights

  • Cutting through the water: Yannick Hillier represented Bermuda at the Royal Canadian Henley Regatta last month

Yannick Hillier fears his rowing ambitions could be adversely affected by plans to eliminate the lightweight division from major competitions.

With the lightweights facing an uncertain future, as the International Olympic Committee looks to cut the division, Hillier could be at a strong disadvantage as he struggles to put on weight.

Lightweights were introduced to the Olympic programme in 1996 to boost participation in rowing from smaller nations that do not necessarily have the resources or rowers to field heavyweight crews.

As it stands, there is a lightweight division, which is under 150 pounds [68 kilograms] for men, and an open category for everyone else.

The men’s and women’s double sculls are the only lightweight events at the Olympic Games in Tokyo next summer.

Hillier, who competes in the singles, is hoping the division remains at least for the World Rowing Under-23 Championships in Bled, Slovakia, next August.

He represented Bermuda at the World Rowing Junior Worlds Championships in Racice, Czech Republic, last year.

“I’m a lightweight, around 72 kilograms, and I can always drop down below 72 for weigh-in days and races,” he said.

“I’m hoping the World Rowing Association keep lightweights for the world under-23s next summer. Even if they don’t, I still think I’ll give it a shot.

“It looks like the [IOC] is getting rid of lightweight rowing, so that leaves me at a disadvantage. Guys like me have to hope we can gain weight and that’s difficult for me.”

Hillier was reasonably satisfied with his performances at the Royal Canadian Henley Regatta last month, considering he only returned to fitness three weeks before the race.

He missed most of the season at Brentwood College School in Mill Bay, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, because of tendinitis in both arms, a common injury for rowers.

Hillier competed in the under-23 open singles and senior lightweights at the annual race, held in Port Dalhousie, St Catherines, Ontario, finishing in the middle of the pack in both events.

“I did reasonably well, considering I haven’t raced all season because of injuries,” said Hillier, who graduated this summer and is set to attend Loughborough University in Leicestershire, England.

“Everyone who just missed out on the Canadian team for the Junior World Championships [in Tokyo last month] were there. It was a strong field.”

Also competing at Henley was Bermudian Dara Alizadeh in the open division.

Alizadeh, who helped Cambridge University win the past two Boat Races, has since switched from eights to the singles as he looks to reach the Olympics next summer.