Petro-Canada Fuelling Athlete and Coaching Excellence grant program recipients series
Part 3 of 3: Amelia Wojtyk (athlete) and Cheyanne Farquharson (coach) – canoe sprint paddling
By Martin Cleary
Trying a new sport for the first time can definitely bring out a lot of emotions.
There could be joy. There could be frustration. There could be words not suitable for this publication.
When Amelia Wojtyk made her first few attempts at learning how to paddle and stay upright in a racing sprint canoe, the canoe won. Wojtyk fell into the water more times than she wants to remember.
But each time that happened, Wojtyk got back in the boat and made it her goal to go a little farther in the water each time.
That strategy worked and now she’s aiming to go to 2024 world U23 canoe sprint championships July 17-21 in Plovdiv, Bulgaria.
Achieving that goal was made a little easier recently when she and her Rideau Canoe Club coach Cheyanne Farquharson were named one of the 56 athlete-coach recipients for the Petro-Canada Fuelling Athlete and Coaching Excellence grants.
Wojtyk, a third-year biochemistry student at Dalhousie University, and Farquharson will each receive $5,000 to help cover their athletic expenses for travel, equipment, medical treatments, etc.
And Wojtyk also had another idea for how to use the money.
“Groceries are so expensive now,” Wojtyk, 20, added as she must eat proper, daily meals to fuel her two practices a day with the Canada Kayak Canada national development team and be sharp for her academic classes.
She would love to buy a new C1 boat, but that price tag would equal the total sum of her grant. Wojtyk has an older boat, but she prefers to rent a better model from a friend.
Farquharson, who had a 12-year athletic career in paddling and swimming, is head coach at the Rideau Canoe Club. She has coached mainly at Rideau since 2010 with side trips to the Carleton Place Canoe Club and the Poverty Bay Kayak Club in Gisborne, New Zealand. She also was on the Ontario coaching staff for the 2017 Canada Summer Games.
Petro-Canada, the Canadian Olympic Committee and the Canadian Paralympic Committee announced the names of the grant-winning athletes and coaches last month. Athletes were nominated for grant consideration by their national sport governing body, if they weren’t receiving any federal funding.
This is the 35th year of Petro-Canada’s FACE program, which has provided more than $13.5 million in financial assistance to more than 3,500 Canadian athletes and coaches.
“It was so exciting,” Wojtyk said about receiving the unexpected news of winning a significant grant. “I got the news in an email and it was something I didn’t expect. I didn’t know about this. It was really an exciting surprise.
“I have been coached by Cheyanne for a really long time. I’m happy she’s getting the other half (of the $10,000 grant).”
Wojtyk helped to fund her academic studies and paddling this past summer by working on a lung care research project at The Ottawa Hospital.
Receiving the grant was a totally different surprise than when she would fall into the Mooney’s Bay water as she was learning how to balance herself in the canoe and paddle at the same time.
“Early on, I fell into the water quite a few times,” said Wojtyk, who was convinced by a middle-school friend to try canoeing and was later sold on the idea at the Rideau Canoe Club summer camp. “There was definitely a learning curve (to paddling a racing canoe).
“But that made it fun. I would say: ‘let’s see if I can make it farther the next time.’”
She persevered and over the past nine years developed technique, stamina and determination that has earned her provincial, national and international medals.
When Wojtyk attended this year’s Canadian sprint canoe championships in Dartmouth, it was doubly exciting for her. When she wasn’t racing well and winning medals, she was meeting friends in her paddling community.
“It was really, really fun and everyone we knew in the sport was there,” she continued.
On the water, Wojtyk won two gold, two silver and one bronze medals at the national championships. She struck gold in the women’s senior C4 500 metres and the C15 war canoe, which was the final event of the championships.
Her silver-medal performances were in the C1 1,000 metres and the C2 500 metres with Evie McDonald. In her other individual race, she earned bronze in the C1 500 metres.
This was a quiet year for Wojtyk in terms of international competitions, but at the 2022 world university canoe championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland, she was a double, silver-medal winner. Her second-place results were in the women’s C1 500 metres and the C2 500 metres with MacDonald, who attended the University of Ottawa. The Canadian team won five medals at the championships.
Domestically in 2022, Wojtyk also was a five-time medallist at the Canada Summer Games in the Niagara Region. Competing in Welland, she was one of the strengths of the Ontario team, capturing silver medals in the C1 500 and 1,000 metres as well as the C2 1,000 metres. Her bronze-medal efforts were in the IC4 200- and 500-metre finals.
When Wojtyk is home from school, the family household takes on a canoe clubhouse atmosphere. Sisters Zoe, 18, and Abby, 15, are avid and accomplished canoeists, while Avery, 14, is dedicated to hockey.
“It’s a lot of fun. There’s a lot of talk at dinner. It’s nice when I’m home and everyone can train together,” said Wojtyk, who only makes a big splash these days when she performs well at regattas.
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 OttawaSportsPages.ca.
Martin can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com and on Twitter @martincleary.
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