Fort Simpson rower Jessie Loutit won her first senior international medal for Canada at the Pan American Games in Peru on Thursday.
Loutit took silver with crewmate Larissa Werbicki in the women’s pair, finishing in a time of seven minutes 36.06 seconds, five seconds behind Chile’s Melita Abraham and Antonia Abraham.
“We adjusted our race plan to go a bit faster off the start because we knew the Chileans had a fast start,” Werbicki said after the race.
“We decided to do a final sprint and we ended up coming closer to the Chileans than in the heat, which is exciting.”
Loutit later posted on Instagram: “Thank you to everyone for all of your support.”
The 30-year-old reserved a “special shoutout” for her family, the Sport North Federation, the Métis Nation, and the Dehcho First Nations – who each, she said, “make it possible for NWT athletes to pursue their dreams.”
The medal was Canada’s first in rowing at the Games in Lima. Team Canada finished Thursday with 113 medals across all sports, 26 of them gold, which places the country fourth behind the United States, Brazil, and Mexico.
Loutit, Team NWT’s flagbearer at the 2005 Canada Summer Games, first joined Canada’s national rowing team in 2014.
Last year, she made her debut on the senior World Cup circuit and attended that year’s World Rowing Championships in Bulgaria – competing not in the pair but the coxless four.
“I would love to go to the Olympics,” she told the CBC at the time. “[The] World Cup is definitely a step in the right direction, but there are still a lot of things that have to happen.”
Rowing Canada confirmed Thursday’s silver represents Loutit’s first international medal.
The Pan American Games is not the strongest field in world rowing. At last year’s World Championships, just three nations who compete at the Pan Ams – the United States, Canada, and Brazil – were among the 28 countries who won medals.
With that in mind, the Canadian team’s selectors have said they are treating this year’s Pan Ams as a chance to test out “the next generation” of the country’s rowing talent.
“The team consists of Canada’s top next-generation rowers looking to make their mark on the international stage,” said the Canadian Olympic Committee on naming Loutit and the other team members in June.
“These Games will not serve as a qualifier for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, but will play a critical role in the development of Canada’s future Olympic rowers.”
Qualification for berths at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games begins later this month with this year’s World Championships in Austria, followed by two further opportunities in April and May 2020.
Qualification spaces are awarded to nations, not individual athletes, meaning it won’t be clear who’s going to the Olympics until Team Canada announces its roster. In 2016, that didn’t happen until just one month before the Rio Olympics.