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HIGH ACHIEVERS: Volleyball player Griffin Grainger shows early signs of becoming a rower

HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic

A New Journey (Part 3 of 3): Three local athletes have been selected by national sport governing bodies for sport-specific training. Each have excelled in their current sports, but have been recruited for opportunities based on their athletic potential in new sports. The initiative is connected to RBC Training Ground, a program that identifies athletes with Olympic potential across many sports. Today, High Achievers features Griffin Grainger.

Read A New Journey (Part 1 of 3): Multi-sport athlete Adriano Padoin-Castillo on Speed Skating Canada’s radar

Read A New Journey (Part 2 of 3): Gymnast Kylar Rathwell aiming high to become a freestyle ski aerialist

Ottawa Fusion volleyball player Griffin Grainger. Photo provided

By Martin Cleary

When it comes to searching for talent in rowing, there are two significant numbers that officials like to see before the athlete gets in the boat to move forward going backwards.

Griffin Grainger of Kars, a village in the southern sector of Ottawa, would certainly meet the sport’s specifications of height and wingspan as he stretches 190 centimetres (6-4) both horizontally and vertically.

Trouble is he’s playing volleyball.

But Rowing Canada hopes to change that with a lot of help from the multi-sport, Grade 11 student-athlete at South Carleton High School. The results from Grainger’s RBC Training Ground virtual testing have caught the eye of Rowing Canada.

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In December, Grainger and Ottawa Fusion Volleyball Club teammate Liam Bishop filmed each other during their virtual speed, power and endurance tests, which were submitted and reviewed by nine different national sports organizations.

Early in 2021, Grainger was told that Rowing Canada put him on their prospects list. At a safe time in the future, Rowing Canada wants to conduct sports-specific tests and, if successful, may nominate him for the RBC Training Ground National Finals.

The top 100 athletes from in-person/virtual testing over the past year will be invited to the yet-to-be-scheduled National Finals for more physical assessments. The top 30 will receive financial assistance to pursue their new sports.

RBC Training Ground is the Canadian Olympic Committee’s talent search program to help discover future Olympians in boxing, nordic combined, ski jumping, speed skating, freestyle ski, cycling, rowing, rugby and canoe kayak.

“Griffin is tall and has long arms – two anthro measures we look for in rowing,” said Chuck McDiarmid, Rowing Canada NextGen program lead coach. “He also shows some good all-around fitness.

“The next steps will give us the real info. That is where we bring him in and run him through our specific testing (machines and potentially on the water). Then we will know if he is a really good fit for rowing.”

If attitude is an important factor in approaching the next stage, Grainger has checked off that box.

“I’m intrigued,” he said in a phone interview. “But I don’t have a clue how it works.

“I’ve seen it on TV, watching the Olympics. But I’m excited to see what happens. I’ve also watched some videos and I feel the mechanics for rowing and volleyball are similar, using the body a lot.”

After Grainger submitted his entry-level test results, he didn’t know what to expect as thousands of Canadian athletes aged 14 to 25 sent in their numbers.

“I didn’t expect to hear back,” he said. “But about one to two months ago, I (heard back) and was very surprised and happy. With the COVID situation, I passed the first stage. Now, I’ll figure out how or if I’ll make it.”

“I heard about the RBC Training Ground through volleyball,” he added. “I feel it’s a goal for me that one day I could play in the Olympics. Everyone has goals to be in the Olympics. RBC is a step towards that.”

As for volleyball, Grainger is a right-side player in the Fusion 17U program and was selected to Ontario’s 2020 beach volleyball team. The pandemic has limited the teams to training and no matches in his third season with the Fusion.

Grainger, 16, also aspires to play university and professional volleyball in the future.

“I like the competitive aspect (of volleyball),” he noted. “It’s a team sport, working together. You have to trust everyone around you and believe.”

Sounds like the making of a rower, as well, pulling hard and rhythmically in a four or eight boat.

Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 48 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.

When the pandemic struck, Martin created the “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at

Martin can be reached by e-mail at and on Twitter @martincleary.

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