Team Ontario trains in Sudbury before the Games
by Randy Pascal
Confidence was not lacking as the Ontario rowing team prepared for the 2017 Canada Summer Games in Winnipeg with a final week of training in
Sudbury, enjoying the Northern Water Sports Centre, Ramsey Lake and the hospitality of Laurentian University and provincial team coach Amanda
“I think, honestly, looking at our team, a good goal for the men’s team would be to win every single event, sweeping the whole Games,” said third year
Carleton Raven Hunter Amesbury. The prediction is even bolder that that of Laurentian Voyageur standout Hayley Chase, who suggested a few
weeks back that capturing the “flag”, emblematic of the overall aggregate team championship, by province, was a most worthwhile Games' goal.
It’s not as though the upbeatness within the Ontario camp is without foundation. Long viewed as a key provider of national team and Olympic talent, the
largest province in the country once again boasts an impressive array of young men and women, each with their own unique port of entry into a sport which
typically is not even in the mix until an athlete reaches high school.
With a primary background in both hockey and rugby, Amesbury made his initial foray to the rowing scene in grade 10, partially based on fitting the
physical template, and partially owing to the motivation of having a cousin who competed with Team Canada at international events and such.
It would take a couple of years before the hidden rowing skill set really began to appear. “In grade 12, my coach talked to my pairs partner (Luke
Gadsdon) and I,” recalled Amesbury. “She said we had a lot of good potential, and if we really put the time into it, we could make it to the next level.
We’ve definitely come a long way since grade 12, but that was the year where I figured I should really put a lot of effort and put the time into becoming a
Travelling every step of this journey with his partner on the water, Gadsdon will also share the Games experience with an even closer connection, with
younger sister Lauren also named to the Ontario team that will compete in Kenora, the closest appropriate rowing venue within reasonable proximity of
“We’re pretty close, we’ve done the same sports all throughout our lives,” stated Lauren, two years younger than older brother Luke. “It makes it a bit
more special, but it’s also kind of normal for me to have my brother around. I think it’s certainly more special for our family to have both of us getting
to this level and competing together.”
One of a handful of Ontario team members who call the Leander Rowing Club in Burlington home, Gadsdon was an average multi-sport athlete before
rowing would draw out her more competitive side – but not before getting a handle on some of the core basics, first and foremost.
“The big thing for me was port and starboard, it took me a while to figure out which one is which,” stated the incoming freshman of the Western
Mustangs rowing team. Initially, sweeping (single oar rowing – as opposed to sculling = two oars) was really hard for me, because it’s very side
oriented and sections of the boat oriented.”
Ethan McAlpine, as an example, will occupy seat 3C as a member of the men’s eight, diversifying his contribution to Team Ontario by also competing as
a member of the men’s quad team, a sculling boat. “I’m in 3C, and typically you hide the athlete with the least technical ability in 3C,” the 19 year old
“I’ve gotten better, and I’ve gotten stronger, but typically you’re engine room is from six to 3C. These guys are just going to hammer it down the
course. Your stroke pair are going to set the rhythm, and your bow pair is going to set the boat up for everybody, keeping it level.”
Recruited by and heading to Princeton University in New Jersey come September, McAlpine will forever be grateful for the perseverance he
possessed in seeing one of his high school goal’s through to the end. “I wanted to try every sport (in high school), to be honest, and rowing was the last
sport on the list,” he said.
“People usually don’t like the ergometer, but I actually enjoyed rowing on it when I started. I liked the endurance aspect. I would play sports like
basketball and volleyball and I could actually run back and forth and never slow down. On the ergometer, I felt like I could keep cranking out the power
and use that to my advantage.”
“I’m not particularly strong or heavy, so I have more trouble with sprints over shorter distances, but I can use my aerobic capacity to really set a
fast pace over an entire race, rather than just relying on strength at the end,” McAlpine continued.
Interestingly enough, there appeared to be very little consensus, within the group, as to whether rowing actually favours a specialization of athletes
towards either sculling or sweeping, with McAlpine representing the middle ground where most seemed to migrate towards.
“I grew fond of sweeping only because it’s a “think less, pull harder” kind of boat, but I like the strategy of the quad, because things are happening
faster than a double or a single, but there’s still that aspect of working with three other guys,” said McAlpine.
Where uniformity does exist is perhaps moreso in the standard physical makeup of the typical rower, blessed with better than average height, and
hopefully longer arms and longer legs. All of which explains the focus of the training for the local hope that is Hayley Chase, the Alma Ontario native and
student at L.U. who now calls Sudbury home year round in order to facilitate her rowing workouts.
“I’ve always had good cardio, but we’ve worked on my strength so much, and that’s helped the most,” she said. “We do a lot of leg stuff, because that’s
where the majority of your power is coming from. When you start, what actually moves the boat is your legs. It’s not until your legs are almost completely
done moving the boat that your arms actually fall in.”
And if all goes well, that combination of strength and power will help Team Ontario prevail, and goal for which one and all aboard absolutely share the