Islander takes love of rowing onto international stage

Jason Simmonds
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WILMOT VALLEY — It didn’t take Emily Cameron long to realize rowing was a sport she wanted to pursue.

“I had been working at the University of Toronto before I started my masters degree,” said Cameron, 31, in a recent interview during a visit home to Wilmot Valley. “I had always been an athlete when I was younger. I played rugby, basketball and track and field in high school, and a bit of rugby in university.

“I was looking for something to get into again, and I saw a poster at U of T for learn to row. I thought that seems kind of cool. I always wanted to learn how to row when I was younger. I remember watching (Canadian rowers) Silken Laumann and Marnie McBean at the Olympics.

“I just called the Don Rowing Club (in Mississauga, Ont.), and they had two options. They had the adult learn-to-row program, which was an eight-week program, and they had an athlete ID program, which was an accelerated two-week program. I decided I would try that one.

“Within the first night I knew I was going to like it, and signed up right away.”

That was back in 2006. Today, Cameron trains full time with the national rowing team.

“We have a centralized training system, so everyone who wants to be on the team, or is training towards it, has to live in London, Ont.,” explained Cameron. “We train together every day

. . .

“We have a set training program. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday we have three practices a day; Wednesdays we have two; Saturdays we have two, and Sundays we have one.

“Basically, on average, we do about three hours of cardio a day, including rowing and cross-training. We lift weights three times a week, we do core specific workouts twice a week and we have a set amount of cardio hours to hit each week.”

Overall, team members put in approximately 18 to 20 hours of cardio a week along with five to six hours of lifting.

What is the key body part used in rowing?

“Believe it or not it is legs,” answered Cameron. “I would say the rowing stroke is 70 per cent legs.

“You really drive from your glutes and quads, you want to have a really strong back to support that and of course you finish off the stroke with your arms. Everyone always does the rowing motion with their arms, but it’s predominantly your legs. You are really driving that seat away.”

Year-round commitment

Training for rowing is a year-round commitment.

“There is never really a break,” said Cameron. “At Christmas, we get time away from the training centre, but we still have to train on our own.

“I’d say the lightest time is after world championships, when we just need a real physical and mental break.

“Most sports take a good break from training, they’ll take a few weeks off, even a few months of down time. We get about three weeks of downtime and then it’s right back at it.”

But all that hard work pays off come race time. Cameron, who has competed in both quads (four-person boat) and doubles (two-person), set the stage for a race: “lt’s a 2K course, so it doesn’t happen really fast.

“In the quad, it takes about 6 ½ minutes, so it’s a long race to be sprinting. You have a race plan, you have a few tactics set out for different points in the course, and those are marked out by buoys. You know as you are passing them how much distance you have left, and how far you have gone.

“I sit in bow, but I don’t necessarily make the calls for the bow. The girl who sits in the two-seat makes the call, and you always count down from bow, 1, 2, 3, 4. She makes the calls and calls out the race plans as we’re racing.

“There is one part in the race that I call, and I’m focusing on when do I make my call.”

Supports club

Cameron is optimistic the sport of rowing will continue to grow on P.E.I.

Rowing proved to be one of the most popular spectator sports at the 2009 Canada Summer Games on P.E.I., and that has helped lead to the formation of the P.E.I. Rowing Club.

“They are such a great group of people, and are doing learn-to-row (sessions) soon,” said Cameron in referring to the provincial association. “They have been a real nice support network for me.”

Cameron, a member of the national training team based in London, Ont., is looking forward to seeing programs expand in Canada’s smallest province.

“It’s nice that rowing is actually growing on P.E.I., because it wasn’t here when I was a kid,” said Cameron.


SUMMERSIDE — Emily Cameron has set out a clear two-year plan.

Cameron, who trains full time with the Canadian rowing team, is focused on continuing to represent her country in international events, including the world championships, with the ultimate goal of the 2016 Summer Olympics.

“I’ve kind of set a goal for 2016 as being the end of my competitive career. My goal is to make it there (Olympics), and then feel like I’ve accomplished what I wanted to do.”

In the meantime, though, Cameron has more immediate goals.

“We have spring trials coming up at the beginning of May,” she said. “That will kind of set the tone for the summer.

“I have to get through spring trials and be in a top position before I can get selected to a boat. You are always trying to be selected. Nothing is set in stone.”

Rowers are assigned to boats by the coaches.

“It’s on you to be as fast as you can be so you can be in the top boat,” said Cameron, who has competed in both quads and doubles. “If it’s the quads you want to be one of the top four; if it’s the doubles you want to be one of the top two.

“They (coaches) set out the standard, and it’s your job to hit it.”

Two major events coming up this summer are the World Cup 2 in France in June and World Cup 3 in Switzerland in July leading up to the world championships in the Netherlands in late August.

Cameron’s best-ever finish was a silver medal in quads at last year’s world championships.

“We are looking to defend the silver and hopefully move up (this year),” said Cameron. “That’s always the goal right, you want to be in the centre of the podium.

“If the summer goes well and everything goes as I plan for myself, hopefully I’ll be defending the silver medal.”

Cameron said the biggest reward she has received from rowing is the opportunity to be a full-time athlete in the sport she loves.

“The biggest thing is you get to do what you love to do, and you actually get paid to do it,” said Cameron. “It’s not a lot, but you get paid to be an athlete. That is huge, getting to do what you like and being supported to do it.

“It’s amazing to go and race for your country, and put on the flag. Then to actually win a medal under your Canadian colours is pretty cool.

“My goal is to have the anthem played. It’s a pretty neat feeling when you get to  race for Canada and say you are representing them.”

Organizations: Olympics, University of Toronto, Don Rowing Club P.E.I. Rowing Club World Cup 2

Geographic location: Wilmot Valley, London, Ont., Mississauga Canada France Switzerland Netherlands

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