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Rower overcomes cancer to compete for Manitoba

By Tara Funke

This summer there is a teenager eager to answer her 4:30 a.m. alarm and it’s not to earn a paycheque.

Katie Sierhuis is one young woman happy to make her way to the Red River in downtown Winnipeg as the sun rises to join up with the rest of Team Manitoba for rowing practice. She has become a leader of this team which will be leaving shortly for the Western Canada Summer Games in Swift Current. 

Although the 17-year-old was only drawn to the sport in 2017, it is evident that rowing has become her passion. Katie’s first multi-sport games experience was here in Manitoba in 2017 and believes participating in those Canada Summer Games helped in preparing her for this year's competition. She describes herself as a leader with a positive attitude and works at leading by example.Katie Sierhuis

Her sports background is quite diverse as she grew up enjoying hockey, recreational soccer and later cross country running. All of those interests were put on hold however when Katie was just 13. 

Katie is a cancer survivor and has proven her strength on and off the water. She tells us that battling cancer was a huge part of her youth experience and definitely shaped her perspective. At the time, Katie was the assistant captain of her hockey team and during her treatments, her fitness weakened. It took a lot of hard work and determination to get back to where she was and the motivation did not end there.

Since then she has been actively involved in annual dragon boat races where Katie’s crew raises funds (more than $130,000) and awareness for the fight against cancer. Katie explains it’s her way of turning a bad experience into a positive and is quite okay talking about her journey. She maintains that attitude can make a huge difference and says support groups were a great place for her when she needed to talk and maintain some normalcy during difficult times. 

When asked about who has helped her the most in her athletic career Katie is quick to thank her rowing coach, Janine Stephens. The two-time Olympian is an uplifting and motivating role model for Katie and adds her own older brother Riley Sierhuis showed her early on how hard work can pay off as he was drafted into the WHL. 

As for her goals in rowing, Katie hopes to perform well in Swift Current and ultimately would like to earn a scholarship for post-secondary education. 

For those of us who are not very familiar with the sport, Katie says it’s not like canoeing. She points out a lot is going on when it comes to the stroke. 

"It’s complicated but once you get it, it’s the most satisfying thing in the world,” she said.

Katie tells us the team atmosphere is fantastic and rowing builds a completely different skill set from other sports.

She also enjoys being a part of Team Manitoba and believes they are a team to watch out for.

We can go online to watch for Katie’s results this month. She will be competing in three events including pairs, women’s 4’s and women’s 8’s.

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