By Mat LaBranche
The Canada Summer Games is sure to be a unique experience for all involved, but Hunter Amesbury and Mary-Jo Weir Weiss will get to enjoy an extra treat that the other local participants won’t: they’ll be on the home team.
With the rowing venue situated 200 km east of Winnipeg on Rabbit Lake at the Kenora Rowing Club, the Carleton Ravens rowing pair will chase gold for Ontario, in Ontario.
“I’m really excited to compete with the team and see how we stack up,” says Amesbury, who will race in the men’s 8 and pair events. “We have a really great team and all the other athletes are a lot of fun to train with. We’re expecting to win. It obviously depends on the other crews and the work they’ve put in leading up, but we’re very hopeful that we’ll come away with gold. We’re very competitive and a strong squad.”
Amesbury’s injection into the sport of rowing came through family ties. His cousin, Paul Amesbury, was a Rio 2007 Pan Am Games champion for Canada, and introduced Hunter to the sport back in high school.
“He suggested I start rowing and that’s really how I got into it,” recalls Amesbury, a third-year Carleton University commerce student from Burlington. “Having a role model like Paul has really helped me a lot. If I ever need to go talk to someone, he’s right there, as he’s been through the whole routine.
“I just hope I can follow in his footsteps with his help and advice, and continue the Amesbury rowing success.”
Weir Weiss picked up the sport much differently than Amesbury. Rowing was just supposed to be a simple hobby for her.
“I got into in first-year and there’s a novice rowing team here at Carleton,” recounts the second-year engineering student from Kanata. “I joined just to make friends and get more involved with the school, and I ended up really liking it and eventually stuck with it.”
Weir Weiss also aspires to follow in the footsteps of a role model, though hers isn’t an athlete, it’s Chris Hadfield. She’d like to become an astronaut, and finds that rowing has helped in that quest.
“Your mental capacity is very important, as well as being in good shape,” explains Weir Weiss, who trains out of Ottawa Rowing Club. “They go through many vigorous physical challenges, and I think rowing is the perfect training for that, as well as being able to deal with stressful situations and circumstances that can happen spontaneously, such as flipping over in the water.”
Although the honour of being selected to Team Ontario still hasn’t quite sunk in yet for Weir Weiss, the anticipation for the meet is starting to build, with training for the Summer Games having started back in May.
“I’m definitely a bit nervous,” signals Weir Weiss. “We’ve put in a lot of work so far so we’re really just going to give it everything we have. The whole team of course wants to do well, and we’re determined to medal.”