By Sam Cortes, Communications Coordinator
“People come from Mexico, Argentina, New Zealand, and all over to race at that race course and regatta,” said Team Toba Rowing Head Coach Janine Stephens of the world class rowing facility where athletes will compete at the 2022 Canada Summer Games.
Janine and Manitoba Rowing Association Executive Director Allison Gervais share what’s in store leading up to team selection next summer, including upcoming camps and training before they take to the water in Niagara.
Finding Team Toba
The Manitoba Rowing Association (MRA) kicked off their first weekend training camp last month.
The camps, continuing each month except January until next June, don’t make athletes eligible or non-eligible, but highly benefit the rowers to get ready for Niagara.
“It gives people the opportunity to learn a little bit more and we get some good training and learning in. We talk about race plans; we talk about mental performance. The camps are pretty valuable in all around, overall preparation for the games,” said Janine.
Selecting the team of 28 athletes occurs over time, beginning at the end of April 2022 with the final selection weekend on June 15-17, 2022.
Janine said that provides a few weeks before games to determine who will be in what crew and get a feel for crew compatibility.
“We’ll get a chance to race those boats hopefully at the end of July, just to give them a test event for the games,” said Janine.
The final team will also include, as it has in previous games, some athletes from Kenora, Ontario. Kenora is also where the team selections will take place, on their 2,000-metre course.
For more details on the rowing program at the 2022 Canada Summer Games, including eligibility, click here.
Fall and Winter Training
It’s no surprise it takes a lot of hard work and drive to train for a Canada Games event.
For now, the athletes will continue to train with their club coaches, including many who work with Rob Dansereau, Head Coach at the Winnipeg Rowing Club.
Lots of athletes also play other sports. Ideally, they’ll add in at least three rowing workouts per week on top of that.
Future training camps will also cover things like mental performance and nutrition.
“I’m working on a prescribed warm up for various workouts, so that everyone’s doing the same thing. So that we’re activating properly, we’re getting our bodies ready to move in ways it needs to move for the rowing stroke. But also, adding in ways it doesn’t move in the rowing stroke, so that we’re staying balanced.”
Allison adds that the athletes are in good hands with an experienced and talented leader.
“Janine is doing her advanced coaching diploma, so I think all the education she is receiving from that is only going to benefit the program and the athletes. Not just Canada Games athletes, but all rowing athletes that she coaches,” said Allison.
Another bonus for the rowers is the opportunity to learn from and train with Meghan Montgomery, three-time Paralympian and bronze medalist at the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games, who will be returning to the program to help coach the athletes before Niagara.
A World Class Course
At the games, athletes will be racing at the Royal Canadian Henley Rowing Course.
This particular Team Toba hasn’t had that opportunity to race these waters yet, so it will be new to them.
However, it is similar to Kenora in that spectators will be watching the middle part of the race, not the start of finish.
“Sometimes that third 500 can be pretty daunting, but if you know that’s where your teammates are going to be cheering you on, I think it’s pretty exciting going through that section. Right as the fatigue sets in,” said Janine.
The Canada Games Experience
Allison is a former synchronized swimmer who has been to many competitions in her life.
Out of them all, she said there’s something about the Canada Games that sticks out from the rest.
“For any athlete, normally when you go to competitions, it’s all business. You get there, you do your practice beforehand, and you do your events,” said Allison. “Games are so amazing, because you get to see all the other sports, or hopefully as many as you can, and all the other athletes who are at your similar level in different disciplines. You feel like it’s a bigger team than just your own individual team.”
Janine said it’s also a chance to pick the brains of other athletes from other sports and form meaningful connections.
“My experience as an athlete, I remember sitting at meals and talking with other sports and learning about what their preparation was, because I was so focused on rowing and only knew rowing, but it was neat to talk to the other people,” said Janine.
She also adds that it’s fun to following along, even after the games, on their paths to success.
“Now with social media, you can do that so easily.”
Advice and Takeaways
Janine advises to always train with intention and commit to it, while remembering to have fun, be respectful, and believe in yourself and the process.
“[Doing this] will put everybody in a really good place on the starting line,” said Janine.
Allison adds it’s about making the most of and enjoying the journey, too.
“It’s not just the week that you’re there, it’s about all the work that you do prior to the games and the year leading up to the games. You’re only going to get out what you put in in all the different areas, whether it’s nutrition, mental prep, or physical training. If you’re putting in the work, you’re going to benefit from it,” said Allison.
And with the camps, the hope is that the tools and skills can be used in all kinds of ways, and not just for Canada Games.
“Not only does it prepare them for going to the games, but it benefits them for every rowing event they go to, before and beyond, and even ‘Yeah, we can goal-set for rowing, but let’s learn the technique of goal-setting that you can actually use in life’.”
For example, Janine said how you manage anxiety before a race can be applied to how you manage anxiety before taking a university exam.
The MRA is currently looking to recruit more men to the sport. If you’re interested, get in touch with them!
And for those of you who are in university, the MRA has the Peter Nykoluk Rowing Scholarship available for university-aged athletes who are wanting to try rowing for the first time.