By Dan Plouffe
Ottawa Rowing Club member David Blair won a silver medal at the biggest competition before next summer’s Paralympic Games in London as his Canadian adaptive rowing crew placed second at the world championships last week in Bled, Slovenia.
However the medal victory didn’t elicit the type of emotion you might expect would come from the moment – either excitement for winning silver or the disappointment of having Great Britain take gold in front of Canada by nearly five seconds in a time of three minutes, 27.1 seconds.
“Honestly, I was numb,” Blair says in an e-mail to SportsOttawa.com. “Racing at a world level is always intense but this year especially so because of the set up of our races.
“We competed in the heats early in the week and then had to wait four days before the next race. It’s this down time that drives rowers crazy and is an aspect of the competition that spectators don\’t know about just from watching the races.
“By the end of the regatta, I was fried.”
There was also the fact that Blair and his boat that won last year’s world title had mixed feelings on their silver medal performance despite the fact that it clinched a berth in the Paralympics for Canada.
“Our crew did well but we are never satisfied,” explains Blair, whose teammates are Tony Theriault, Meghan Montgomery, Victoria Nolan and Laura Comeau. “Losing the finals colours your perceptions a bit as to how the crew did.
“Had we won, we may have disregarded some flaws in our racing. Because we lost, those flaws have been thrown into focus. It is by spending the next 10 months working on these flaws that we will become a much stronger team next year.”
Despite the fact that Blair is still just 19 years old, the Carleton University student is already an experienced member of the senior national team. These were Blair’s second world championships, and although the athlete with a visual impairment still finds the whole worlds experience “pretty crazy,” a strong program with Rowing Canada and supportive teammates helps to build confidence, he notes.
“The Canadian team is just such a good group of people and I felt welcomed into the group when we first met up at the airport on our way to Karapairo (New Zealand) last year,” says Blair, whose national team coach is Jeff Dunbrack from the Ottawa Rowing Club. “No matter your experience, age, and skill level however, people get nervous and that\’s because everyone cares about their race. Everyone wants to do well.”
There is no race where that is any truer than next summer’s London Games. The thought of making his Paralympic debut – which is now as sure a reality as can be – in less than a year’s time is constantly on Blair’s mind.
“I think about the Paralympics and it becomes easier to finish that last set, to pull that little bit harder, and to avoid that piece of pie,” explains the 2010 Ontario able-bodied under-23 lightweight double sculls gold medalist. “The Paralympics are with me every moment because I need every moment I have to be the absolute best I can be so that when I sit there at the A final of the London 2012 Paralympics, I can represent the very best about my country and myself.”
Blair’s Ottawa Rowing Club teammate Cristy Nurse also won a silver medal at the world championships in the women’s eight event.