Hurdles cleared along the way add extra shine to paddler’s Canada Games medals

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Rideau Canoe Club’s Lexy Vincent (left) and Genevieve L’Abbe of the Ottawa River Canoe Club were Canada Summer Games K-2 women’s 1,000 m champs for Team Ontario. Photo: Canada Games

By Charlotte van Walraven

A 2-hour commute to practice in her formative years, a broken leg from cycling, and university engineering studies all provided major barriers on Genevieve L’Abbe’s journey to the Canada Summer Games, but it didn’t stop the Ottawa River Canoe Club paddler from winning 2 gold medals and a silver at the national youth multi-sport event in Winnipeg.

L’Abbe’s medals were 3 of 34 won by Ottawa athletes at the July 28-Aug. 15 Games. Nearly half (15) came in canoe-kayak, with local female paddlers earning 11 of those.

L’Abbe won K-4 women’s 500 metres gold alongside the Rideau Canoe Club’s August Sibthorpe, who led the way with 3 gold and 2 silver. L’Abbe also teamed up with Rideau’s Lexy Vincent to win gold in the K-2 women’s 1,000 m and silver for the K-4 women’s 200 m.

L’Abbe and her K-4 200 m teammates were especially pleased with their result since they only had the chance to practice together the day before the race, Vincent having arrived late following the U23 World Championships in Romania.

“By this time, most of the girls at our level know each other and have paddled together at some point, even if we’re not from the same club,” explains L’Abbe, who later finished sandwiched between champion Vincent and bronze medallist Sibthorpe in the K-1 junior women’s 1,000 m at the Aug. 22-26 Canadian Championships in Welland.

“It’s not unusual that some combinations for some races don’t come together until the day before,” adds the sustainable and renewable energy engineering student.

Like Vincent, L’Abbe is now getting ready to return to the classroom at Carleton University.

“It’s funny, because it’s an extremely difficult thing to take on, but there are actually quite a few paddlers I know who are also engineering students,” L’Abbe notes, adding that it’s really nice to have others in the same boat dealing with the same issues, and they all help each other out.

Building a schedule to accommodate high-performance paddling is nothing new for L’Abbe. Her passion for the sport of kayaking brought her to Ottawa initially.

“In paddling, if you want to be good, you go where the numbers are, and Ottawa has the numbers,” signals L’Abbe, who travelled from Sydenham just outside Kingston to weekend practices for several years as teenager.

She’d also stay with host families from the Ottawa River Canoe Club all summer and eventually moved to town permanently for her last semester of high school at Bell.

L’Abbe plans to take longer than 4 years to complete her degree, with wintertime trips to Florida for on-water training a necessity to keep pace with the best in the country.

“It’s hard,” she says of excelling in both academics and athletics. “Really hard. But it’s worth it.”

It was at a Florida training camp last February that L’Abbe experienced a much less positive challenge. While riding her bike back from practice, she was hit by a car and broke her leg.

What followed was rest, recovery, and a lot of swimming – the only place where she could continue to work on her fitness without putting weight on her injured limb.

While she was frustrated, disappointed, and very bored, L’Abbe also found some fresh perspective as she worked her way towards recovery.

“Not being able to train is worse than being tired from training,” highlights the 19-year-old. “It reminds you why you like it.”

Next year’s U23 worlds and eventually the 2020 Olympics are now on L’Abbe’s radar, buoyed by her showing in Winnipeg. L’Abbe says she was very excited to qualify for Canada Games and get the chance to experience an Olympic-style competition, but was even more pleased with how well she performed.

“It was a big goal for me this season,” L’Abbe underlines.

Ottawa’s 2017 Canada Summer Games medallists

Athletics

Shyvonne Roxborough
silver (women’s 100 m)

Laura Amoi
bronze (women’s triple jump)

Basketball

Connor Vreeken
gold (men’s basketball)

Julia Chadwick & Taylor Featherstone
silver (women’s basketball)

Canoe-Kayak

Rowan Hardy-Kavanagh
gold (C-2 women’s 200 m)
gold (C-2 women’s 500 m)
bronze (C-1 women’s 200 m)
bronze (IC-4 women’s 500 m)

August Sibthorpe
gold (K-1 women’s 1,000 m)
gold (K-2 women’s 500 m)
gold (K-4 women’s 500 m)
silver (K-1 women’s 200 m)
silver (K-2 women’s 200 m)

Lexy Vincent
gold (K-2 women’s 1,000 m)
silver (K-4 women’s 200 m)

Genevieve L’Abbe
gold (K-2 women’s 1,000 m)
gold (K-4 women’s 500 m)
silver (K-4 women’s 200 m)

Philipe Turcanu
bronze (IC-4 men’s 200 m)

Isaac Finkelstein
bronze (IC-4 men’s 1,000 m)

Joe Spratt
bronze (K-2 men’s 200 m)
bronze (K-2 men’s 500 m)

Cycling

Katherine Maine
silver, women’s road race
bronze, women’s criterium

Diving

Henry McKay
gold (men’s 1 m springboard)

Rowing

Hunter Amesbury
gold (men’s pair)
gold (men’s 8+)

Mary-Jo Weiss Weir
bronze (women’s 8+)

Sailing

Aaron Wong-Sing
silver (2.4m mixed para)

Soccer

Monti Mohsen, Haider Kadhom, Tony Mikhael & Ricky Comba
gold (men’s soccer)

Ariel Young, Olivia Cooke, Emily Amano, Mollie Eriksson & Kayza Massey
silver (women’s soccer)

Swimming

Gael Shindano
bronze (Special Olympics men’s 100 m freestyle)

David Quirie
bronze (men’s 400 m freestyle)

Regan Rathwell
bronze (women’s 400 m freestyle)

Tennis

Malik Bhatnagar
gold (men’s singles)
gold (mixed team)

Volleyball

Alexandre St-Denis, Maxime St-Denis & Ethan Kalef
gold (men’s volleyball)

See our Ottawa at the Canada Summer Games special page to read pre-Games profiles on all the local athletes.

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