Canoe-Kayak Community Clubs High Schools

HIGH ACHIEVERS: New approach to school could balance academics, canoeing for 10-time Olympic Hopes paddling medallist Ruby Muhl

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By Martin Cleary

Ruby Muhl switched high schools this month for her graduating year and wasted no time getting familiar with her new academic program at John McCrae Secondary School.

After spending three years at St. Pius X High School, the world-class junior canoeist enrolled in the High Performance Athletics program at McCrae to help her better deal with her academic and paddling workload and schedules.

The McCrae HPA program provides “academic support to elite athletes, who are striving to compete at the provincial, national or international level” and was established because sometimes athletes “require unique academic programming, accommodation and flexibility so they are able to train, while still receiving a high-quality education.”

While her Grade 12 classmates started school on Sept. 5, the day after Labour Day, Muhl was in Poznan, Poland, competing and excelling for Canada at her third consecutive Olympic Hopes Regatta. By the time she returned to Canada, Muhl didn’t have her first day of in-school classes until seven school days later.

She knew she had some catching-up to do. It was her first meaningful assignment about how to combine sports and studies successfully and there will be many more over the coming nine months.

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“I wanted to balance my paddling and school better,” Muhl, 17, explained in a recent phone interview as to why she entered the HPA program.

“I missed a lot (while attending St. Pius X) and it was hard to catch up. So, I wanted to manage both better.”

Muhl, who has trained at and competed for the Rideau Canoe Club for a decade, learned about the HPA program through a friend more than a year ago. But she missed the application deadline for her Grade 11 year.

The HPA program will help Muhl bring stability to her training and learning as she will be attending canoe training camps and competitions next year.

The 2024 season will complete her junior eligibility and she hopes she can represent Canada in the C1 200- and 500-metre races at the world U18 championships. She built a strong case for that earlier this month, when she won five gold medals, including all three solo races, at the Olympic Hopes Regatta in Poznan.

“I would say I was shocked with my performance at Hopes, especially with the 1,000-metre gold, which wasn’t anticipated at all,” she wrote in an email.

“I was also satisfied and very happy that I could perform my best and go out with a bang for my last Olympic Hopes competition.”

Muhl is one of only a few athletes to have competed in the Olympic Hopes Regatta for three consecutive years. This year, the Continental Cup competition attracted canoe and kayak athletes aged 15-17 from 19 countries.

While each of her heats, semifinals and finals were learning experiences over the past three years, she also saw her efforts rewarded with medals … 10 times.

Muhl earned a career six gold and four silver medals in a variety of Olympic Hopes races. Each year, she improved her medal production as she went from U15 to U16 to U17.

In 2021, she was the silver medallist in the U15 C1 500 metres. A year later, she won three U16 medals – gold in the C1 200 metres, and silvers in the C1 500 metres and C2 200 metres with Rideau clubmate Julia Price.

Almost two weeks ago, Muhl was unbeatable on the Lake Malta Regatta Course, sweeping her three C1 solo U17 races over 200, 500 and 1,000 metres. She also joined Canadian teammates Price and Abbie Haines and Isabel Lowry, both of the Carleton Place Canoe Club, to place first in the C4 200- and 500-metre races.

Ruby Muhl. Photo provided

“The 1,000 metres, I didn’t expect first place at all,” a still surprised Muhl said in a phone interview. “It’s not my strong suit. I expected third place.”

Muhl won her long-distance race by 4.49 seconds.

“I underestimated my cardio and my ability in long-distance competition,” she added. “I really pushed myself.”

Another surprise for Muhl was in the 200-metre final, when she won the all-out sprint by 2.40 seconds. That’s the type of race that’s usually decided by less than a second.

“Performance-wise, I was blessed and couldn’t get better. But my technique is (something) I can work on,” admitted Muhl, who has benefited from her strong women’s junior training group and the coaching of Cheyanne Farquharson at Rideau.

“All the training I’ve done in the past year (has helped) as well as my performance at junior worlds. My training group has pushed me to be my best.”

Muhl experienced her first world junior championships in Szeged, Hungary in 2022 and, while she didn’t win a medal, she learned how the best in the world competed in her age group.

At this year’s world juniors in Auronzo, Italy, she worked well with her teammates and reached the medal podium twice.

Muhl, Price, Abby Wojtyk of Rideau and Elizabeth Desrosiers-McArthur of Lac Beauport, PQ., won the gold medal in the C4 500-metre final. In the mixed 5,000-metre relay, Muhl and Nicholas Shirokov of Mississauga placed third.

“I have one more year at the world juniors before I move up to U23,” Muhl said enthusiastically. “I hope I can race the single events. I haven’t raced the 200 and 500 metres (at worlds). It would be cool to medal in the 200 metres.”

While many young children get their first canoe experience at a summer camp, Muhl jumped into the sport with the Rideau club’s pre-competition program at age eight.

She paddled in both a canoe and kayak at the beginning and actually favoured the latter discipline. But in the end, and with some encouragement from Farquharson, Muhl dedicated herself to the canoe.

“I almost went with kayak as my friends were in kayak. There weren’t many in canoe. But I practised and found it was more fun. It felt more comfortable. I enjoyed it more,” she said.

Her canoe results certainly reflect that.

Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 50 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 High Achievers “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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