Tuesday 17 July 2012

The Long Road....

The long road to London

By Derek O'Farrell, Men's Four

It has been a long journey, that’s for sure, but it is certainly not over. Although I have been racing on the National Team for six years, when I get to the start line at Dorney Lake I will be wearing the maple leaf at my first Olympic Games. There are only two weeks remaining before athletes from all over the world gather at the opening ceremonies, and yet amongst all the excitement and hype surrounding the Games, I often find myself thinking about the 72 months that got me here. 
At 87 kgs I am the lightest guy on the team. This has always been the case in my national team career, and being smaller has shaped my development over the years. Without natural power and size, I’ve had to focus on the finer things in rowing: rhythm and blade-work. It has taken a long time to develop these skills but with six long winters of rowing on Elk Lake under my belt I feel like I am ready to compete against the biggest and best rowers from all over the world. At the Olympic Games, that is exactly what I get to do.
 We have all heard about Andre Agassi and his confession that he hates tennis. I’m not saying I hate rowing but I can relate to what Agassi is talking about. Training to compete against the best in the world is not easy. There are many dark days. The winters are wet and cold, and sometimes seem infinite. But it was during these days that I flourished. Showing up to practice every day and working as hard as I could has made me not only better at rowing but mentally tough, and at this level a strong mental will can make all the difference.
 This past year has been quite different than the previous five. A new coach and new program has altered my outlook on training and how to maximize performance, but the end goal remains the same; standing on the podium at the Olympics. Integrated into our program this year is a heavy emphasis on sport science. Cutting edge altitude protocol for example, has realized serious fitness gains for myself as well as my teammates.
 I am so excited to race and represent Canada at the Olympics that sometimes I can’t sit still. This hype is compounded by send off dinners, trying on team kit, and reading emails of support. But I know the journey is not over. I still have to leave six years of blood and sweat on the racecourse. This is why I spend so much time thinking about the past, reminding myself that I have done everything I can to reach my goal.

Wednesday 11 July 2012

Final Days of Prep!

By Lesley Thompson-Willie, Eight-time Olympian 

As we head into the final three weeks of preparation for the 2012 Olympics we are fielding questions whether we are excited for the upcoming games.  There can and will be different responses depending on when the question is asked.  If asked immediately after a taxing 20km row, where we are trying to keep that precarious balance between volume and heavy intensity training, and in the searing heat that London, ON is experiencing right now, one of the seriously fatigued women might reply, “I am focusing on each day, each workout, and each stroke. There is still work to be done.  It is one step at a time.”   At that particular moment and circumstance I don’t think anyone has the capacity to think beyond how to get recovered for the next workout which will be under way 90 minutes later.
Despite being focused on “now”, and before looking ahead to the excitement of our Olympic racing, I am reflecting on the work that has been completed to get us to this station in our Olympic journey.  Over the past four years of this Olympic cycle, we have worked to produce an efficient rowing stroke. Under the masterful eyes of our coaches they have looked to bring the right combination of women together to apply that perfected stroke around 240 times over 2000 meters; with maximum effort and as one unit, to be delivered under the pressure and thrill of elite level racing.
We have invested thousands of hours in long distance training.  We have worked through the warm days of fall, the snow storms of December, and the freezing rain in April.  The additional training sessions in our weight room have produced significant strength gains.  The application of “killer” core circuit training has enhanced our resilience and stamina.  The years of racing at the world championship level have tested our mental and physical boundaries.  Each year has been a cumulative building block for the next.  
I have looked to my teammates, those that have been through more than one Olympic cycle, their training base and experiences as well as the younger ones who challenge the veterans and make us smile with their enthusiasm.  I see and feel a national rowing team that goes well beyond us.  The team that I see includes all of our national crews, our coaches, medical staff, administration, our families, friends of rowing, the Canadian sport system, and Canadians amongst others.   
As the Olympics approach closer with each passing day, we embrace the knowledge and confidence we have gained from the dedicated work completed over the last four years.  We take our rowing shell down to the water each morning with an agenda to push harder and smarter than the day before. Each step is calculated, measured and remembered.  It is this commitment that fuels our excitement, propels our crew, and drives us towards greater achievement.
Is there an optimal time to ask your heartfelt question, “Are you excited for the upcoming Games?” Perhaps just before our Olympic heat. Of course we will be focusing on the race but the answer would be a resounding, “Yes, we have been looking forward to it for years, and we are now ready to go. Thank you for asking!”

Wednesday 4 July 2012

The Stamp of Approval

by Peter Cookson
It was a proud moment last week.  Our  2012 Canadian Olympic Rowing Team was announced and to top it off, Canada Post introduced a new stamp that celebrated our sport. Canada Post made the decision to honour rowing on their 2012 stamp based on "the consistent excellence displayed by the Canadian (Rowing) Team and their perceived strength heading into London this summer."  

And so it is with this team: a team of excellence and strength. Of the 30 athletes named to the team, almost half have previous Games experience. There are medalists, finalists and strong proven performers on this team.  It is a team that will represent our country proudly and will do their utmost to maintain our position as Canada's top summer Olympic team by bringing home the medals.  It is a team we can all be proud of from the way they perform and  the manner is which they handle themselves in their pursuit of excellence.   

Here are some photos on Facebook!

Here is our 2012 Canadian Olympic Rowing Team:  

Women's 8+:
Ashley Brzozowicz (London, ON)
Janine Hanson (Winnipeg, MB)
Krista Guloien (Port Moody, BC)
Darcy Marquardt (Richmond, BC)
Natalie Mastracci (Thorold, ON)
Andreanne Morin (Montreal, QC)
Cristy Nurse (Georgetown, ON)
Lesley Thompson-Willie (London, ON)
Rachelle Viinberg (Regina, SK)
Lauren Wilkinson (North Vancouver, BC)

Men's 2-:
David Calder (Victoria, BC)
Scott Frandsen (Kelowna, BC)

Men's 2x:
Michael Braithwaite (Duncan, BC)
Kevin Kowalyk (Winnipeg, MB)

Men's 4-:
William Dean (Kelowna, BC)
Anthony Jacob (Vancouver, BC)
Derek O'Farrell (Montreal, QC)
Michael Wilkinson (North Vancouver, BC)

Men's 8+:
Gabe Bergen (100 Mile House, BC)
Jeremiah Brown (Cobourg, ON)
Andrew Byrnes (Toronto, ON)
Will Crothers (Kingston, ON)
Douglas Csima (Oakville, ON)
Robert Gibson (Kingston, ON)
Malcolm Howard (Victoria, BC)
Conlin McCabe (Brockville, ON)
Brian Price (Belleville, ON)

Lightweight Women's 2x:
Lindsay Jennerich (Victoria, BC)
Patricia Obee (Victoria, BC)

Lightweight Men's 2x:
Morgan Jarvis (Winnipeg, MB)
Douglas Vandor (Dewittville, QC)

Wednesday 30 May 2012

Post Lucerne Posting!

Reflections on the Lucerne World Cup

The Lucerne World Cup is now behind us.  The boats have headed back to their European training homes in northern Italy.  The VTC athletes are now back in Victoria, the women are back at their base in Italy.
It was an interesting World Cup - it featured most of the crews we will face at the London Games later this summer.  The racing was fast, supremely competitive and a great test of where we are at 60 days away from the Olympic finals.  Our performance as a team equaled what we did at the 2011 World Championships in terms of medals - two silver medals and one bronze medal in Olympic events, yet there was a sense among the team that we have not hit our stride yet and we will see more and better at the Games.
There were some very good performances - the men's pair challenging the Kiwi's, the women's eight almost breaking the US women's eight winning streak dating back to 2006, and the men's eight setting a world best time in the heats.  But underneath it all, this is a team that wants to go from being good to being great.

You may have noticed that the team racing at the Lucerne World Cup didn't race with the Maple Leafs on their blades.  The honour of having the Maple Leaf on the blade is only bestowed on those athletes and crews who represent Canada at World Championships, Pan American Games and Olympic Games.  For all other international regattas such as World Cups, Henley Royal, etc, you will see the familiar Canadian colours on the blades but not the Maple Leaf. So the next time you see the Maple Leafs on the senior teams blades will be the Olympic Games from July 28 to August 4.

Eton Dorney Course
  For the past couple of days, our National Team Manager, Adam Parfitt, and myself have been in London, England finalizing our plans and logistics for the Games.  The venue preparation is well under way, the grandstands are being assembled, the tenting areas for the athletes’ rest areas are now in place and security at the venue is in full gear.  They are expecting 30,000 spectators per day at the rowing event and from the size and length of the grandstands it looks like it could even be a higher figure.  Our logistics for the Olympic Games are quite complicated and our goal for this visit was to confirm that the plans we have put in place will meet our intent to provide the team with the best performance environment we can. The Olympic Games are a special event and rules that apply to going to events such as the World Championships are not necessarily the same for the Games. For example, all of our boats and equipment have to go through an extensive security screen prior to being allowed to enter into the rowing venue; the clothing the athletes wear has very strict rules about logos and what can and can not be shown and even the Rowing Canada logo can not be worn on any clothing at the venue.
So now after our visit, we will finalize our plans, and the team will continue its preparation. The training will be hard and focused;  we know the racing in London will be tight, and our mission during this last phase of training is to ensure that our crews are prepared to be on the right side of tight.  

Peter Cookson, High Performance Director

Thursday 24 May 2012

Setting up shop in Lucerne

Here's our tent at the Rotsee course in Lucerne!   Although the women's pair did not qualify for the Olympics, the team spirit is high, and anxiously awaiting racing tomorrow. More to come today after the draw is released at 5 pm (local).

Monday 21 May 2012

Here's a post from Rachelle Viinberg of the women's eight:

Rachelle Viinberg

Well, the HW women arrived at our pre-world cup training camp in Italy. Even with the jet lag, the boat is moving very fast, and we are all excited about our potential. Lucerne World Cup 2 is less than a week away, and we are ready to race.
For many of the women in the crew, this will be our second and even third Olympic cycle. However, this quadrennial seems to be the most special of them all. Everything has completely come together for a successful program. We have depth, talent, experience, youth, technology, support, and a gifted coach. In my ten years on the national team, I have never seen all of these components come together at once. But it’s what we need to have a truly outstanding performance.
As this may be my last Olympic cycle, I’m just taking it all in one day at a time. It’s so easy not to fully appreciate this experience in the moment. Everything starts happening so quickly in the couple months prior to the Olympics, and it can be difficult to grasp that this is a unique event that only happens to a select few.
As I said before, this Olympic cycle is special, and we have the opportunity of a lifetime but also must remember to enjoy every minute of the journey!

Friday 18 May 2012

Athlete Perspectives

Over the next few weeks leading to London , we will be sharing  on this blog a few thoughts from some of our athletes who will be representing Canada at the 2012 Olympic Games.  Our first athlete to share his thoughts is David Calder, the bow member of the men's pair.   London will be Dave's fourth Olympic Games and is a silver medalist from the 2008 Olympic Games.  Peter Cookson, HP Director

Rowing World Cup II: Lucerne by David Calder

In my first few years on the team my excitement would build over the last week of training before we left for the Lucerne World Cup. Lucerne is one of the most beautiful race courses in the world and one that all athletes look forward to racing at.  When I first rowed on the senior team in the late 1990s, we'd fly across to Europe only a few days before the regatta started – we were literally thrown into the fire. This trip I have been able to contain that excitement, and now, in the final week of preparation in Europe, I can feel it starting to grow.

By the time racing starts next Friday, we will have been overseas for nearly three weeks. Living out of a suitcase that that long could become destructive in many cases – but not ours. We have established a strong 'base-camp' in Italy. Our surroundings are so familiar that it feels like we have a home-away-from-home. We know what to expect for our meals; we know the lake like it was our own; we know nearly every square inch of the hotel; we know the complex directions from the Milan airport and the side streets of the small town to get us everywhere we need to go. Predictability: it's what helps us prepare to race well in Lucerne.   Over the last nine years Rowing Canada, and our athletes and coaches have developed a relationship with the people who provide us with what we need. As a result we can focus on what's important:

Going as fast as possible. 
Dave Calder