By Dan Plouffe
A bigger trophy room might have to be the next expansion project for the Rideau Canoe Club as its members racked up loads of honours at home and abroad in recent weeks.
The most decorated group of the bunch would be Sue Holloway, Lynn Shepherd, Ann Raymond and Kris Foss, who helped Canada win nothing but gold in every one of their Senior ‘B’ races at the International Dragon Boat Federation world championships Aug. 4-7 in Tampa, FL.
“Everyone got to know the Canadian national anthem because they played it so many times,” smiles Foss. “It was great. I saw this American woman walking along, singing, ‘O Ca-na-da.’”
For Holloway, a former canoe-kayak and cross-country skiing Olympian, the dragon boat victories are another addition to a long list of accomplishments, but she says the emotions always surface the moment O Canada begins and there’s a gold medal to celebrate.
“Of course, I’ve heard it a few times,” Holloway adds. “But when it’s your award, and you’re standing there, it chokes me up every time. I’m fine the rest of the time, but it really is a wonderful experience knowing that you’re representing your country and that you’re doing well.”
While it was scorching hot in Ottawa at the time, it didn’t quite compare to the site of the paddlers’ triumphs in Tampa, where the temperature topped 37 C with the humidex every day.
“Every day, all day – morning and night,” Raymond emphasizes. “You had to hydrate all the time. We were drinking a lot of water. There were quite a few athletes that suffered heat exhaustion.”
The members of the local Galley Girls crew can thank their physical conditioning for being able to survive and thrive in the Florida heat. Training is a year-round, everyday commitment for the Girls – on top of their mom duties and full-time work – and they frequently test for bench press, chin-up, sit-up and rowing machine abilities.
The Ottawa portion of the 20-member Canadian team brought a lot of experience to their boat, which was run as an all-female collective.
“Typically you have a coach that dictates everything,” explains Raymond, whose Galley Girls senior crew beat competitors of all ages at a large event in Montreal earlier this season. “It was a really good system, and one of the first systems like that.”
Almost 20 athletes in total from the Ottawa area competed in various categories at the worlds, helping Canada to the overall nations’ cup titles in the women’s and seniors’ categories.
The Rideau Canoe Club members are now looking ahead to their club’s fourth-annual dragon boat festival Saturday, Aug. 20, as well as the Canadian canoe-kayak championships the following weekend in Welland, Ont.
“It’ll be a lot of fun,” says Raymond, noting it’s a highlight for the younger groups to race against their coaches from the Galley Girls. “They always want to see if they can beat us.”