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Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Title Lost, Confidence Gained

My last post was some time ago and I can say that mostly the reason why was that I just wasn't inspired to write. I promised myself that this blog wouldn't just be about racing and it wouldn't act as some sort of public diary of my day, but rather would be written when I felt I had experienced something that held some valuable lesson within rowing.

This past world championships found Canada's lightweight double in a position that I do not believe it has ever found itself before. Four weeks before the world's final, Tracy was diagnosed with a rib stress fracture. There was a very small chance that the fracture would heal well enough to have her safely race in the Olympic qualifying regatta. As Randy Starkman put it, " steps super spare Patricia Obee." With few days to get our double to the standard of qualifying Patricia and I embarked on one of the toughest, mentally challenging experiences I have had in rowing. I was coming off a year as a world champion, Patricia is in her third year of rowing and we had the job of making sure that Canada's lightweights could say that they were training this year for the Olympics. We had a huge job. However, that all being said, we had complete trust in one another. We put more focus and attention into detail than I have ever mustered in anything I have ever done. The risk in that though (especially in rowing) is over analysis. One can be paralyzed by thinking too much, trying too hard and being too picky. We had to ride the fine line between picking apart every small little imperfection to the point of destruction but also leave no stone unturned in the effort of getting as fast as possible. I think the toughest part for me was that everyone around us seemed to be in denial that Tracy would not get back in the double. The decision to have Tracy in or out dragged on and on and on to the point that I didn't know which way to tune my mind. I didn't know whether to think of Patricia as a girl who was sitting in the double to help me get in workouts, or if she was to be the girl critical in the process of qualifying our double for the Olympics.

The one thing I did know by the time our heat came was that we were fast. We were a double that if we did everything we knew how to do could go down the course believing that if we were not in a qualifying position, that we needed to work harder because we should be. When you have trained with someone all year and you see what they are capable of and you know what you yourself are capable of, when you get in the middle of a race and things are not panning out as you believe they should based on the knowledge you have of yourself and your partner, you go harder. You make the right call, you push your legs harder and believe with everything that you know, that your bow ball should get where it needs to be or you aren't doing everything you can. I knew going into that regatta that the double that Patricia and I worked to be was a medal contending double and that we just had to lay it all on the line and we would be proud of our performance; win or lose, we could be proud. Why did I have such confidence in us? Because we stuck to our guts all year. We trained where we were told that we would lose financial support if we stayed, but we stayed because it's where we knew that we would give ourselves the best chance of being our best. Ironic no? That the two people who were told that Victoria was not where they were allowed to train were the two people who managed to qualify the double for the Olympics and only because we had stayed where we were told not to stay.

The Greeks are now the reigning world champions in the lightweight women's double. They are the champions because they must have done absolutely everything right. They are strong, powerful and they row very well as a unit; they deserved what they earned. I might no longer be the world champion but after this summer, I now have no uncertain faith in the ability of Canada's lightweight women to be Olympic champions given the best preparation. I by no means am saying that we are going to win, I'm saying that we have every reason to train this year believing that we have the capacity to do so. We can be confident that if we work extremely hard, we are not going to the Olympics to participate, we are going there to win and if we don't win, we will have helped push someone else so hard that they reached their highest capacity ever. That is the beauty of sport. That even when we don't win, if we have given everything to be the fastest we can possibly be, we have helped to create a champion that was faster than she has ever been. How special is that?

You can check out Patricia's and my races at

1 comment:

  1. I love your final paragraph here, because it makes it so clear that winning the #1 spot is not the only prize. As a Masters rower I'll never have a shot at the Olympics but I race and train hard anyways, and I've always questioned why I do this since there will always be somebody who can train harder/longer and win the races (except sometimes when I'm unstoppable). This very windy/wordy comment is just to say thanks for reminding me of why I do what I do - and why I keep doing it even when I'm not winning.