HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic
By Martin Cleary
The all-embracing COVID-19 pandemic presented rower Madeleine Lauriault with a series of challenges during the last 15 months. But she confronted each one and has significantly grown as an athlete.
Training alone was a major difficulty during the spring 2020 lockdown as well as this past winter. In May, she needed to do well in an important national team qualifying test. Then, she nervously waited for the result.
But with all the solitary training behind her, the 2,000-metre erg test complete and the results delivered to her email, the Ottawa Rowing Club athlete learned she had been named to Team Canada for the world junior rowing championships.
Plovdiv, Bulgaria, will be the host city for the world juniors Aug. 11-15. There will be 13 boat classes for male and female rowers, who are 18 years old and under.
Lauriault said she was on edge the entire day, waiting for Victoria, B.C.-based Rowing Canada to announce the six female athletes for the world junior team. The three-hour time difference made it worse for her.
“Although feeling defeated, I understood that my chances were slim,” Lauriault wrote in an email interview. “When I eventually got the email notification that night, I felt a mix of joy and relief.”
When she took the national team test on her erg rowing machine in the family laundry room, she needed a time within 10 seconds of the Gold Medal Standard to be invited to the selection camp. Ten female rowers made that grade.
“Like every 2K, it was a mental and physical battle, but I felt prepared and focused,” added the Franco-Cité high school student. “I find I always perform best when I am confident. So, I convinced myself I would do well the days before this extremely important test.”
In the past, Lauriault has shown she can perform well on the erg machine. At the 2019 Canadian indoor rowing championships in Mississauga, she won the junior women’s novice division.
The former competitive gymnast/cheerleader will spend several weeks training in Welland, ON., with the other five women in a sculling group to determine who will be best suited for a certain boat. Crews must reach a specific speed to be competitive internationally.
The ability to train with other rowers, even in a small group setting, is a blessing for Lauriault, who has trained in isolation during the pandemic.
During the first lockdown in the spring of 2020, she “struggled a lot more with motivation than I do training alone now.”
Competitions were few, but she won the Ottawa Rowing Club’s Maskerade Sprints last year against all club competition.
“This winter, dryland training season has been long (six months) and came with a series of challenges. From burnout to injuries, many times I felt lost,” Lauriault wrote. “Thankfully, I had my club and RowOntario coaches, my teammates, friends and family on which I could count on for moral support, when I was feeling most alone.
“Since they could not be with me during my workouts, I had to be accountable and rely on myself to put in the hours and produce quality work. I diversified my training methods and learned how to cross-country ski to accompany my spinning, erging and lifting sessions.
“To stay disciplined on cold dark mornings before online schooling, I would remind myself that ‘future me’ would be grateful for all the effort I am putting in now.”
The mornings are more pleasant now for Lauriault as she trains with some of the best junior rowers and coaches in Canada. It’s still hard for her to believe her first invitation to a rowing team was for a Canadian squad.
“One of the benefits of this experience is that I will appreciate training as a group even more than before, since I know I can face the obstacles alone,” Lauriault highlighted.
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 OttawaSportsPages.ca.
Martin can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com and on Twitter @martincleary.