No one on Team Canada knows more about competing in the Olympic Games than Lesley Thompson-Willie does.
The coxswain for the women’s eight rowing team is set to compete in her eighth Olympic Games, making her only the second female athlete in history to do so.
But the 56-year-old from London, Ontario isn’t simply in Rio to set a longevity record—she’s there to compete.
“I think about (the record) sometimes, but usually it’s in the context of having been around a long time,” she said. “Mostly I think about what’s happening now.
“I have a job now and I’m working with this crew, and we have our own identity.”
Thompson-Willie doesn’t just bring Olympic experience to the table; she brings plenty of success. She won her first medal, a silver, with the women’s four at Los Angeles 1984, then claimed gold with the women’s eight at Barcelona 1992.
Thompson-Willie believes this group—who compete in heats at Lagoa Stadium on Monday—also has what it takes to stand tall on the Olympic podium.
“I wanted to come here to win,” she said. “I wanted to be with a group of women that had the same goal, and it’s within the realm of possibility.”
The key, according to Thompson-Willie, is to build on the success the team has had during the past four years, including podium finishes at the last two FISA World Rowing Championships.
Few would know how to do that as well as Thompson-Willie, who comes into Rio as the oldest member of Canada’s 314-athlete team.
But having already seen and done it all on the water, why does she keep going? Her answer is simple.
“It forces me to be in shape.”