Time and place happen to play a huge part in the lives of Canada’s rowers.
Rowing is an intense, high-demand sport that requires extreme endurance. Athletes like Cristy Nurse, Lindsay Jennerich and Carling Zeeman joined looking for a challenge; while others such as Maxwell Lattimer, Kai Langerfeld and Lauren Wilkinson were inspired by family to take up the sport. Then there are some that came across rowing by chance.
Here’s how 5 Canadian Rio 2016-bound rowers began their careers:
Natalie Mastracci became an Olympic silver medallist after competing in women’s eight during London 2012. Mastracci began rowing five years prior to London at age 18. At that time, Mastracci was aiming for an U.S. collegiate basketball scholarship. Her best friend tricked her into joining the rowing team, stating that it would build her athleticism. She ended up with a rowing scholarship.
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Tim Schrijver is headed to his first Olympic Games after winning double gold during the Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games. Schrijver began rowing at age 18 when he was approached by the head rowing coach at Brock University – Peter Somerwil, who was extremely enthusiastic about Schrijver trying out, which ultimately led to an impulsive decision to try do so. One speed burst in an eight shell later he fell in love with his sport.
Julien Bahain may be a new face to Canada but he is no stranger to Olympic rowing. After competing for France in Beijing 2008 and London 2012, Bahain hopped the pond and joined Team Canada. At age 13, Bahain was diagnosed with scoliosis and his doctor told him to swim or row to build muscle. Previously an equestrian rider, he thought rowing was a useless sport – but being afraid of water took swimming out of the equation. After being told to row for a season by his Canadian mother, he was hooked, and now represents her homeland internationally.
Lesley Thompson-Willie has been a staple to Team Canada since her first appearance at Los Angeles 1984. Come Rio 2016, she will tie kayaker Josefa Idem in all time appearances at the Olympics by a woman. Thompson-Willie was a gymnast competing for the University of Western Ontario until a major injury took her out of competition. She was recruited for the rowing team due to her tiny build and high athleticism levels that would make her the perfect coxswain.
Eric Woelfl is headed to Rio for lightweight men’s four after winning gold at TO2015. Woelfl began rowing at age 16 in high school. His mother was a librarian at his school, and while he waited for her to head home, he would watch the rowing team work out. One day, a member of the team called him out and told him to try it. Ready to embrace the challenge, Woelfl went to the rowing coordinator the next day and said he wanted to join.