Ian Mortimer (right) received his Ottawa Sports Awards trophy as male athlete of the year for 2009 from former Rideau Canoe Club commodore Mike Scott. File photo
By Leah Larocque
Born in a family of paddlers, it almost seemed like destiny that Ian Mortimer would become a paddler himself. But nothing could predict the love and hard work that he would put into the sport during a career that included seven years on the Canadian senior national team.
His brother, Angus, is a fellow canoe-kayak national team member, his mother is a masters paddler and his sister, Lucy, is a coach. “Coach” will be Mortimer’s new title as well, as the two-time World Cup gold medallist and 15-time Canadian champion announced his retirement from the national team after a successful national championships in August.
It’s difficult for the Rideau Canoe Club veteran to pick out a career highlight – winning the Black Trophy (the Stanley Cup of paddling) twice was significant but overall Mortimer’s “best memories have been when the team is doing well as a group,” he says.
Racing at the 2009 worlds in Dartmouth, N.S. is also a special memory.
“I love racing in Canada,” notes Mortimer, who competed in the K-4 event alongside Ottawa’s Rhys Hill as well as Chris Pellini and Brady Reardon. “It was awesome racing at home, huge crowd and I was literally racing with my best friends in the canoe.”
The hours of training have also produced a fair share of injuries for Mortimer. In 2006, he severely injured his shoulder and underwent major surgery, which took him out of competing for 2007. Then, starting in 2010, Mortimer has been experiencing serious problems with his hip, which will send him to the surgeon’s table this fall.
“I have to retire. I can’t keep paddling,” explains Mortimer, who’s now accepted the reality that his high-performance career is over. “I have no bitter feelings. You get to a certain point and you work hard for so long. For the past years, my body hasn’t allowed me to train where I need and can be and that was frustrating.”
Despite the beating his body has taken, Mortimer believes it’s worth it.
“If I was 12 and you told me what would happen, I would say ‘yes’ in an instant, no hesitation,” says the athlete who made his international debut at the 2001 junior world championships. “I got to race at such a high level. I am very thankful for everything. I became friends with the best people all over the world.
“You’re going to get injured and worn down no matter what. I would do it all again.”
Retiring in Nova Scotia was meaningful to Mortimer as he got to spend the week with teammates he has been racing with since 1995.
“It was nice retiring and sharing the experience at the same time (with the guys), and my family there,” smiles the captain of Rideau’s recently-crowned war canoe national champs. “A great bookend to my career.”
Mortimer says he will forever be connected to the sport. He continues to be seen daily at the club.
“You can retire from the national team but you can’t retire from the sport,” Mortimer notes.
School, coaching & charity next
Mortimer organizes a fun charity race called “Yak for a Stack,” which has featured all of the top-5 kayak finishers from this summer’s Olympic Games. He plans to continue that event, finish his Masters of Canadian Studies at Carleton University, and coach.
His advice to young paddlers is simple and honest.
“Work really, really hard and never be shy to work harder than everyone else around you,” Mortimer explains. “Find a sport that you love and work really hard. Love it, embrace it. Embrace the training, live every moment.”
Advice Mortimer has lived by.