By Dan Plouffe
A pair of Ottawa Rowing Club members both won silver medals at the Aug. 28-Sept. 4 world championships in Bled, Slovenia as Cristy Nurse and David Blair sent the message that Canada intends to be on top come next summer’s Olympic and Paralympic Games in London.
Nurse, who’s put her law studies at the University of Ottawa on hold to train full-time with the national team in London, Ont., came within one second of knocking off the U.S. for top spot in the women’s 8+ competition, finishing the 2 km course in six minutes, 4.39 seconds en route to the silver medal.
“We went into the final aspiring to win gold, and believing that we could,” Nurse recounts in an e-mail to SportsOttawa.com from London, England, where she just arrived for an Olympic orientation camp following the worlds in Slovenia. “In the end, silver is bittersweet – we had an exciting, fast race and it\’s hard to be disappointed with an Olympic qualification and a world silver, but we are all hungry to stand on top of the podium.”
Nurse says she was “very proud” of the effort her boat (consisting of Lesley Thompson-Willie, Andreanne Morin, Darcy Marquardt, Ashley Brzozowicz, Krista Guloien, Rachelle Viinberg, Natalie Mastracci and Janine Hanson) put in overall leading up to the worlds and at the big event.
“The absolute main goal this year was to qualify the boat for the Olympics, and secondly to stand on the podium, and we achieved both,” the 24-year-old notes, praising coach John Keogh, along with coxswain Thompson-Willie, for instilling a sense of confidence and calmness in the boat while pushing for improvements in a positive manner. “We all know there are measures we can take to improve physically and technically over the winter so we can challenge for gold in London.”
Nurse was “thrilled” to know that there will be a Canadian women’s eight boat competing at the Olympics, although she’s not about to count her chickens and expect that she’ll be chosen for the final team despite the crew’s success at worlds.
“I can\’t ever be sure of my own place in that boat,” explains Nurse, who worked for Wellington-Halton Hills MP Michael Chong on Parliament Hill while in Ottawa. “I think I performed consistently well this season in internal competition (against my own teammates) so my goal is to just keep improving and learning to earn that seat in the Olympic boat.”
Nurse’s focus remains squarely set on the London 2012 Games – and emphasizes that the increased support athletes now receive from Sport Canada and Own The Podium funding is a big help in performing internationally – although she does sometimes think of Ottawa and misses living by the Rideau Canal.
“When I return to complete my final year of law school in September 2012, I plan to find a place in the same neighbourhood,” Nurse adds. “The access to the canal, the school, and downtown was perfect for me.”
Coached by Ottawa’s Jeff Dunbrack, 19-year-old Carleton University student David Blair took silver with Canada’s adaptive coxed four crew, finishing second behind Great Britain and easily securing a spot for the Canadian boat in the 2012 Paralympics.
Check SportsOttawa.com for more on Blair’s world championships experience in the coming days.