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Unsung Hometown Heroes: L.A. Schmidt: A Canoeing Trailblazer

Lesley Anne Schmidt has always loved canoeing. She finds a great release in paddling.
Council, Councillors, Head Shot, Official, Portrait, Mathieu Fleury

With City of Ottawa Sports Commissioner Mathieu Fleury

Lesley Anne Schmidt has always loved canoeing. She finds a great release in paddling.

She began coaching 36 years ago at the age of 18. She was a trailblazer for the sport because at that time there were very few women involved in competitive canoeing. Her ideas were often challenged because she was a female in a male-dominated sport.

Back then, women weren’t even allowed to compete in Olympic canoeing. This adversity gave Ms. Schmidt a loud voice and taught her not to take no for an answer.

In order to increase participation in the sport, Ms. Schmidt and her husband co-founded the Ottawa River Canoe Club 17 years ago, and it’s still going strong today. They now have 150 members and summer camps with over 500 children.

Lesley Anne Schmidt

In addition, they have special Olympic and Paralympic programs, as well as adult evening lessons. They have become Dragon Boat champions.

However, her greatest achievement will be the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. She made a presentation in Switzerland to advocate for the inclusion of women in canoeing and was finally successful. She can’t believe it took so long for women to be accepted at the Olympics. Women not being at the Olympics was a massive barrier for the sport.

Ms. Schmidt’s advice, for young girls in particular, is: “When you have a dream, never give up and keep pushing.”

She knows of the positive benefits sports can have on individuals. It gives them a real sense of community.

She has seen first-hand how close the sports community can be because recently she was personally affected by the flooding and her canoeing family came together to help her out.

For more information about the ORCC check out their website:

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