July 2021 Monthly Bulletin

This past month Rowing Canada announced its team that will represent Canada at the Olympic / para-Olympic Games.  Included amongst the 36 athletes competing in 12 separate boat classes were four Alberta based athletes.  They are in no particular order.

Jessica Sevick – Women’s 2x – When Jessica was 12 years old, she was doing a luge training run at Canada Olympic Park when she crashed at a speed of 86km/h on one of the final turns. Her helmet flew off and she hurtled down the final feet of the track bare-headed, “just ping-ponging.”   When her team finally reached her at the bottom of the course, she was unconscious, choking on her own vomit as her jaw locked. She was airlifted to hospital where doctors informed her family she may not survive. 

Six months later Jessica was back in school writing exams competing on the track & field team.  Later that year, Jessica started a new pursuit, biathlon a sport that she took interest in during her long recovery.  Jessica went on to win a bronze medal at the 2006 Alberta Winter Games and competed at the National Championships in that same year.  Upon graduating from high school Jessica went to the University of Alberta earned an engineering degree and later found work at the University of Calgary as an MRI assistant. 

While in Calgary as an MRI assistant, Sevick tore her ACL playing soccer. A year after her surgery, she still wouldn’t be able to fully extend her knee and began to work closely with Roma Oleksyn – a physiotherapist and rower at the Calgary Rowing Club.  Upon Roma’s insistence Jessica came down to the rowing club for the first time in January 2015 and took her first stroke on the water in May of that year. 

Rowing was not a pursuit that came easily to Jessica which was attributed in part to a side effect  of poor balance resulting from her brain injury.  But Jessica persevered.  No matter how many times she capsized her boat Jessica was persistent in her pursuits.    By the start of 2016, athletes and coaches were taking notice of Jessica’s progress and then tragedy struck again.  Skiing with her boyfriend, Jessica fractured her tibual plateau in her leg which required surgery and months of rehabilitation.  Four months later Jessica was in the 8+ of Calgary’s Henley winning crew and in 2017 represented Calgary at the Henley Royal Regatta in Henley England. 

In the fall of 2017 Jessica moved to Vancouver British Columbia to pursue a Masters Degree and continue her pursuit of an Olympic dream but by December 2018 the dream looked to be almost over.  Officials from Rowing Canada  informed Jessica that she was no longer welcome to train at the High Performance Centre.  Jessica had other plans.  She returned to UBC and learned to row the single on her own time and as they say the rest is history.  She won gold at the Pan -American games in the summer of 2019 and is now representing Canada in the women’s 2x at the 2021 Olympic Games.  Jessica’s story is proof positive that you should never let anything stand in the way of your dreams.

Kasia Gruchella Wesierski – Women’s 8+ – Kasia Gruchalla-Wesierski grew up as a competitive alpine skier but a broken leg ended her career and she thought she lost her chance at becoming a high-performance athlete.   But a second chance came when she found rowing. Friends with a fellow rower, Kasia showed up the club for the first time in March of 2014 and picked the sport up quickly.  By June of that year, Kasia was amongst the fastest sweep athletes in the club and represented Calgary in a women’s 8+ with eventual national team athletes Karen Lefsrud, Mckenzie Lukacs, Jessie Loutit and Helena Hlas.  The eight lost to a Craftsbury crew that year which was loaded with a number of international athletes but Kasia’s future was indeed bright.

Kasia returned the next year and was a part of a Calgary Women’s 8+ and 4- that won Henley gold in 2015 and 2016 and would go on to compete at the Henley Royal regatta in Henley England in 2017.  Following that 2017 year Kasia left Calgary to join the National Rowing Centre in Victoria and in 2018 joined up with Calgary athletes Colleen Nesbitt and Jessie Loutit for a World Cup in Lucerne Switzerland marking her first international regatta.   Kasia however was not selected to the 2018 World Championship team a few weeks later and returned back to Calgary to ponder her next steps.  By 2019, no one was holding Kasia back.

Two weeks ago and six weeks away from the start of the 2021 Olympic Games Kasia was involved in a bicycle accident that required 50+ stiches and surgery to repair a broken collarbone.  Despite the setback Kasia is confident that she will be at the start line when the Olympics start.  Kasia is as tough as they come and this writer has no doubt that Kasia will be at the start line in Tokyo in three short weeks.

For a photo of Jessica and Kasia together just one week ago please go to the link:  https://photos.google.com/album/AF1QipORSAcHx4ucacqkxGtoCrvJtfdiWmTP3sJj4WK8

Nicole Hare – Women’s 4- Nicole started her rowing career in 2007 as part of the CRC Junior Program.  Rowing under the tutelage of CRC Coach, and former Olympian Chris Davidson; Nicole progressed quickly winning Royal Canadian Henley gold in the Junior Women’s 2x  in 2010 with Ashley Vrielink.   A year later Nicole won gold representing Alberta in the W1x at the 2011 Western Canada Summer Games.  In 2012, Nicole was back on the podium at Henley winning gold the Junior Women’s single and was a co-recipient of Rowing Canada’s Junior Female Sculler of the Year. 

Nicole left Calgary in 2012 on an athletic scholarship to Washington State University but made sure she maintained her Alberta roots in the summer.  In 2013, Nicole’s first as a U23 athlete, Nicole represented Canada at the U23 World Rowing Championships: afterwards, Nicole changed uniforms to represent Alberta at the Canada Summer Games winning gold in the Women’s single, silver in the Women’s quad and bronze in the Women’s double.  In 2014 and 2015 Nicole won bronze and silver medals respectively at the U23 World Rowing Championships in the Women’s four event and by 2016 was a World Champion in the U23 Women’s pair event rowing alongside Hillary Jansens of UBC.  Later that summer Nicole was selected to represent Canada at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio rowing a pair with Jenn Martens. 

For the last couple of years Nicole has battled a series of injuries which kept her off the world championship squad in 2018.  In 2019 Nicole was back competing for Canada’s world championship team helping them qualify for 2020 Olympic Games with a fourth place finish in the women’s 8+. 

Jeremy Hall – PR2 2x Last month the ARA reported that Jeremy finished 3rd overall at the last chance Paralympic qualifier narrowly missing out on qualifying for the 2021 Paralympic Games.  Unbeknownst to the ARA was the fact that FISU has two additional spots for the games reserved for crews  that show strong performance and global representation.  Jeremy and his partner Jessye were granted one of those two spots.

Jeremy’s story can be found in last month’s edition of the ARA report. 

To CRC / ERC athlete Karissa Riley who has been selected to represent Canada at the U23 World Championships in the LW 2x event.  The U23 World Championships are to take place from July 7 to July 11, 2021 in Racice Czech Republic. 

To Beth Miller who was selected to the 2021 Can-Am Ex Team.  Although there will be no Can Am Ex event in 2021, Rowing Canada Aviron (RCA) felt it was still important to announce a squad for this event. Beth is amongst those athletes who would have been invited to the 2021 Can-Am Ex selection event.

Canada Summer Games
The ARA is pleased to advise that it will be hosting a camp for CSG aged athletes in Vermilion, Alberta from Friday July 23 through to Sunday July 25, 2021.  The camp is open to all athletes interested in trying out for the 2022 Canada Summer Games Team.  Athletes interested in attending this camp are encouraged to RSVP their spot as soon as possible by emailing the ARA at albertarowing@gmail.com as space is limited.

Please note that the camp is free of charge for all attendees.  However, all athletes will be responsible for finding their own transportation up to Vermilion.  For those interested in camping during their stay in Vermilion the ARA has made a group reservation for a few campsites (which is a 60 second walk to the boathouse).  The sites are free of charge.  Athletes who prefer to stay in a hotel will be responsible for finding their own accommodation.

Upcoming Events
Canada Summer Games Development Camps – Every Friday at the Calgary Rowing Club
Canada Summer Games Camp – Vermilion, Alberta July 23-25, 2021.