(ISN) – 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. Each athlete’s story is unique. Each athlete’s story will be told.
Facing the Water
Brendan Hodge has always been fascinated with water. He has also spent the better part of his life facing it.
Brendan grew up in Tsawwassen, a quiet community located on a peninsula in the municipality of Delta, in British Columbia.
Tsawwassen, which means ‘land facing the ocean’ in the local Salish dialect, provided an abundance of opportunity for Brendan to indulge in water activities when he was growing up.
A family boating trip from Kitimat to Vancouver, a distance of over 1000 kilometers, presented a perspective of life on the water that Brendan had yet to face.
“That was a wonderful adventure,” he explained of the fishing trip. “It taught me a certain respect for the ocean which can only be learned first hand.”
It also cemented his fascination with being on the water.
Therefore when the opportunity arose in high school to try out for the rowing team, Brendan thought he should jump at it.
“This was a way for me to remain connected to the water.” Brendan said of wanting to be a part of a crew.
But his compulsion to try out was also due to something that he remembered from grade 3, several years previous.
“Silken Laumann did a presentation about rowing at my school when I was about 8 years old,” recounts the well-spoken Hodge.
“I was mesmerized with the sport; gliding over the water, trying to go as fast as possible, the finesse required, the strength and endurance needed, pushing yourself to the limits of exhaustion. I had to be a part of that somehow!”
With Hodge’s fascination of water propelling him to attend the initial practices, he made the team. He never regretted his decision. He attacked the sport and summoned the intensity required to excel.
Academics however were never forgotten and Hodge spent an equal amount of time planning for a career.
“Education was always important to me,” explained Hodge while talking about Harvard, his undergraduate alma mater.
“Rowing was important, but an education even more so!” emphasized the one time singer who briefly entertained thoughts of musical theater in high school.
But following his undergraduate degree, Brendan felt the strong pull of the Land Facing the Ocean and returned west. He missed BC.
He attended law school at the University of British Columbia and was grateful to be home. He replaced rowing with a new focus, his profession.
However, while firmly entrenched in his lawyering career and now well into his twenties, he began to feel a gnawing as he watched the rowing events on television in 2012.
The familiar undertow of the water was tugging at his heartstrings once again.
“I was watching rowing during the London Olympics and suddenly I thought, if I don’t do this now, I am never going to do it.”
He let his heart lead the way.
With the support of Lawson Lundell, the Vancouver law firm where he was working, Hodge packed his bags and moved across the country to London, Ontario, where the lightweight men train.
“I needed to give it a go and see if I could do this,” he said in reference to making an Olympic team and qualifying for the Rio Olympics in 2016.
Listening to his instincts, Brendan traded the daily grind of lawyering for the daily grind of training.
Soft spoken, Brendan emanates a quiet focus that is palpable.
“I feel a sense of urgency in the training and I think this comes through in the way I attack workouts,” says Brendan.
“I’m older now,” says the 30 year old, “I don’t have time to waste. I need to make every moment count.”
Something he hopes is demonstrated in his work ethic.
“I’m a ‘lead by example’ type of guy. I don’t say a lot, I let my work speak for itself. I hope that has an impact on the younger guys.”
It is a work ethic that will be needed if Brendan and his lightweight team want to qualify for Rio.
The current lightweight men’s group is young and inexperienced. Thus far, they have been struggling to demonstrate their potential in the competitive Olympic lightweight events.
But Brendan takes it one day at a time, despite his sense of urgency.
Rio, for him, is always in his thoughts. Ironically though, it is the water that keeps him grounded and focused. It is the water that reminds him why he is doing what he does.
And for Brendan, it is a journey that could metaphorically end where it all began.
For if he makes the Olympic team, he will feel right at home in Rio.
The rowing course is spectacularly situated in the heart of the city.
It is what the rowing venue is facing however that is more important.
It is facing the sea: another little piece of land facing the ocean.
Just like Tsawwassen.
Brendan was raised in a land facing the water. Now he might compete at the highest level in a land facing the water.
Far from home, yet feeling like home.
Not a bad way to finish a chapter on one’s fascination with water.