Canoe-Kayak Community Clubs

HIGH ACHIEVERS: Evie McDonald has plenty of motivation aiming for the Olympics

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

By Martin Cleary

OLYMPIC PROSPECTS (Part 7 of 8): As a young girl growing up in Carleton Place, Evie McDonald was introduced to many sports.

She swam for the Carleton Place Water Dragons, played volleyball and competed in track and field and cross-country running for Notre Dame Catholic High School and started paddling at the Carleton Place Canoe Club at age 12.

Her relatives were thrilled she had taken an interest in paddling and had become a competitive canoeist. They watched her races and supported her. But her grandfather went a step farther and encouraged her to make the journey into Ottawa and race for the Rideau Canoe Club. That’s what paddlers in the family have done in the past.

McDonald comes from a family of all-star paddlers from the past.

Her great aunt Anne Merklinger, the CEO of Own the Podium, great uncles George, Don and Lloyd Michie and grandfather Jim Michie have all won Canadian championships and national medals. Her great-grandparents Thelma (Jo) and Bill Michie, who lived beside the Rideau Canoe Club, are lifetime members of the club for their decades of dedicated work.

With that thought in mind and realizing she also needed to upgrade her training environment, McDonald, 18, joined the Rideau Canoe Club in the fall of 2019.

“Carleton Place doesn’t have as many paddlers. I was mostly training by myself. And they didn’t have enough racers for crew boats,” McDonald said in a recent phone interview.


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“I loved training at the Carleton Place Canoe Club. I thought about it for a while, but it was definitely the right step to take in my athletic career. Having a training group is everything and having people around you every day. These are the people who are pushing you. I am grateful.”

During her days with the Carleton Place Canoe Club, McDonald made an impressive start. At 15, she made the Ontario team and attended her first international competition, winning a pair of gold medals in two crew boats, C2 1,000 metres and C4 500 metres, at the 2018 Pan-American junior championships.

A year later at the 2019 Olympic Hopes regatta, she placed third in the C1 200 metres.

Then, along came the RBC Training Ground program, which was something totally different from paddling a straight line down a marked lane. But it was still competition and an opportunity to enhance her career.

The sixth annual RBC Training Ground, which is “a nation-wide talent identification program dedicated to finding and funding Canada’s future Olympians,” stopped at the University of Ottawa on Feb. 1, 2020. More than 4,000 athletes across various sites in Canada went through the testing process for core speed, strength, power and endurance.

Read More: Seven Ottawa area athletes named RBC Future Olympians

McDonald found the tests “really hard,” but that was because she had a fractured bone in one of her hands and had pulled some ligaments and tendons during recent training sessions. But after almost two years of waiting because of the COVID-19 pandemic, McDonald not only made the Top 100 list of athletes, which required more testing, but also she was named a Top-30 athlete and earned the title of RBC Future Olympian.

That honour allowed her to become part of Canoe Kayak Canada’s national team and receive full funding and support for a two-year period to chase her Olympic dream.

“I was studying for my exams and I got a call from Calgary,” said McDonald, a first-year biomedical science student at the University of Ottawa. “I don’t like picking up the phone for random numbers. But I felt like I had to pick up the phone. I was super excited. I was shocked for a couple of hours and grateful.

“It gave me more motivation and confidence. Knowing I had RBC on my journey was great. I was ready to take the next step.”

Being an RBC Future Olympian will allow McDonald to attend a lengthy training camp in California, beginning Feb. 2.

“My short-term goals are to improve through training and attend the world championships in 2022. As for long-term goals, I want to contend on the world stage to compete in the next couple of Olympic cycles,” she stated.

Despite fracturing two ribs last spring and dealing with the presence of the pandemic, McDonald had a strong season on the water. At the Canadian flatwater canoe kayak championships at the Rideau Canoe Club, she placed second in the women’s U18 C1 200-metre race and qualified to represent Canada at the world junior championships in Portugal. Her contributions also helped Rideau win the Canadian team championship and the coveted burgee.

At the worlds, she reached the A finals in the C2 200 metres and C4 500 metres and placed sixth in both events.

Whether training at the Carleton Place Canoe Club or practising today at the Rideau Canoe Club, McDonald has found happiness in her canoe.

“It gives me balance. It’s intense, but also a de-stressor. I love every facet, even when it’s windy and a challenge,” she added.

And now there’s more to love about canoe racing as an RBC Future Olympian.

Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 49 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 martincleary51@gmail.com and on Twitter @martincleary.


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