Hometown Heroes is a new series profiling members of Canada’s National Rowing Team. From now until the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, the athletes from Canada’s two National Rowing Training Centers will be battling for spots on the Canadian Team.
It is said that Islanders descend from sturdy stock. They are also usually fiercely proud of their heritage.
Additionally, a tenacious attitude to life’s challenges customarily prevails, which, depending on ones perspective, is either interpreted as persistence or stubbornness.
Moreover, islanders may leave their Eden when circumstances are imposed, but their garden never truly leaves them.
Lindsay Jennerich, from Victoria, BC, is a west coast firecracker unwavering in her devotion to her island and in her methodology concerning the sport she loves.
She grew up a stones throw from the National Training Center at Elk Lake, one of a handful of rowing centers in Canada, and the undisputed epicenter on the west coast.
Because of this, at a very young age, she was surrounded with some of the best athletes in the world. And finding herself training alongside the very heroes she was trying to emulate, she was able to draw inspiration from them on a daily basis.
Introduced to the sport at a young age, Jennerich has been rowing, incredibly, for 18 years. For some of those years, she has had to relocate, an exercise that causes her much consternation.
When not in Victoria, she misses her hometown deeply.
Is she proud of her Island?
“I would have to scream YES!” she giggles.
“The forests, the hiking, the water, the clean air, it’s a part of who I am. It’s a way of life for me. There is no place I would rather be.”
A roaring endorsement for the rainforest she calls home. And from someone, no less, who has travelled extensively during her two decades in the sport, including to New Zealand, where she claimed a world title in 2010.
But one would be forgiven to presume that because of her numerous accolades things have come easily for the seasoned veteran.
“I didn’t even make the first team I tried out for!” laughs Jennerich, while talking about her first attempts at the sport.
“Apparently, I didn’t have what it took.”
Nevertheless she stuck with it, making a name for herself in university rowing before becoming aware of the limitations of her stature.
“I realized I could possibly have a future as a lightweight, but certainly not as a heavyweight. I had to change course,” explained the 5’5”, 58kg work horse, who is a foot shorter and 15kg lighter than her open weight counterparts.
So Jennerich redirected her focus. She dropped the weight and figured out on her own the intricacies of lightweight rowing and the skills required for proper weight management.
“There were definitely some bumps along the road,” she explained regarding some of her early struggles in figuring out how to come down to racing weight gradually and healthily.
“And some of those bumps included people who were not that supportive,” adds the diminutive rower, as she recounted some of the animated exchanges she’s had with fellow athletes and coaches regarding weight matters, amongst other issues.
But don’t let her small size fool you. The 2012 Olympian, who demands excellence from herself as well as the system around her, makes no apologies for her strong opinions.
“My parents taught me to always ask the question ‘why?’” she explains.
“They taught me to think critically. I am grateful for that. And people shouldn’t feel threatened by that,” she says.
“Just give me a good reason why you are asking me to do something. If it is fundamental to achieving success, naturally there will be a good reason for doing it, right?”
Maybe yes. Sometimes no.
Something that frustrates Jennerich.
“It bothers me that sometimes with critical thinking, one is labeled a troublemaker,” she says.
And how would her teammates describe Jennerich’s interpretation of ‘critical thinking’?
“Any crewmate I have had over the years would definitely say I have had my freak out sessions,” she explains with a twinkle in her eye.
“But they would also say I have always been positive about how to make the boat go as fast as possible.”
And what does almost two decades of rowing teach an individual?
“To never quit,” Jennerich says, “to never give up.”
Words that she clearly lives by and words that course through her veins.
“Rowing has shown me what kind of person I am. I am never going to throw in the towel. Rowing has illustrated this for me,” she says adamantly.
“I am confident that whatever I do in the future, I will see it through and give it my best. That is a pretty big thing for a sport to teach you. I am grateful for that.”
And while Jennerich is no longer trying to emulate her heroes on the water, she now finds herself in the enviable position where the next generation of young athletes is now trying to emulate her.
However she is not ready to pass the baton just yet. Her passion still burns too intensely, a passion that fuels her as well as guides her.
And when asked to pick one word that encapsulates her, she answers immediately and unwaveringly,
Spoken like a true Islander.
And since the word is conveniently tattooed on her wrist, it is not only a philosophy by which she lives, it is a tenet that she carries around with her every day of her life.
Lindsay Jennerich, as well as all the members of the Canadian National Rowing Team, will be competing this weekend at the RBC 2014 National Rowing Championships at Elk Lake, in Victoria BC.
Finals will be raced between 1230 and 1430 on Sunday, November 9th.
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