Road to Rio: Olympic rower and Victoria native Lindsay Jennerich

Lindsay Jennerich.
Lindsay Jennerich. Kevin Light Photography

With the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio just around the corner, Global News is talking to some of B.C.’s most prominent athletes on their way to Olympic glory. Today, we are talking to 33-year-old Olympic rower and Victoria native Lindsay Jennerich, who made her Olympic Games debut in London in 2012 in the women’s lightweight double sculls with partner Patricia Obee, winning the B final and finishing seventh overall. The duo will be competing in Rio again. 

Where are you from and where do you train? I am from Victoria, so we train mostly at Elk Lake. It is one of the training centers for rowing in Canada. The second training center is in London, Ontario.

What are you looking forward to the most in Rio? I think I am finally in a place where I believe that we are probably going to have the best race we have ever had and we have been building toward this moment for a long time. I really do foresee that we are set up here to have one of our best, if not the best ever, races and I believe we are on pace for a race that could hold a gold medal potential.

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What has the last year of training been like for you? It’s been really great. I’d say it’s been the best training year I’ve ever had in my time in rowing. We have been a bit of a satellite group in the past. But we have our own coach this time around – a coach that we are really aligned with in training philosophy. So it’s been a really good, smooth training year, mostly because we just got the kind of support that we have been needing for a while.

What’s your goal in Rio? I want to execute the most well put-together race we could ever have. That’s the focus. But we are mostly focusing on the process, not the result.

Did you ever see yourself becoming an Olympian? I definitely didn’t start in the sport thinking that’s where I could go. But I kept picking away at these smaller goals, like making Team BC, and then the junior national team. I think it was when I made the Under-23 team for the first time, that I thought the next step after that would be Seniors. And that’s when I thought that the Olympics were probably a goal that I could be setting for myself. It took making a few of the stepping stone teams before I thought, maybe I should be aiming for the Olympics.

What is your earliest memory of the Olympics? It’s really bizarre because one of the my earliest memories of the Olympics was actually rowing, and I was nowhere near close to even starting rowing at that point. I was 10-years old. It was the Summer Olympics in Barcelona in 1992. My family was on a vacation in the Interior of B.C. We came back inside for a bit of a reprieve from the sun during the day and flipped the TV on right when the Men’s Eight was winning a gold medal in rowing. I remember very specifically thinking – Canada is good at something, because at that time we did not really dominate the Summer Olympics that much. Interestingly, Terry Paul, who was part of that team, is now one of the coaches currently training the Men’s Quad team.

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Who has been your greatest influence in your sport? It’s a hard one. So many people have played, what I would consider, to be pretty integral roles in helping me get to where I am. I had a lot of help from Rick Crowley, who was my university coach and pushed me to train with the national team. Another person would be Roger Meager who gave me a new way of thinking about rowing. He introduced more of an artistic side to the sport, not just power.

Who was most influential in helping you achieve your dreams? My parents have always been very supportive. There is support in a sense that they don’t expect me to not do [rowing]. I am 33-years old. Not many people my age are still pursuing a sport at an Olympic level and do not have a family or a career. They have never made me feel like I should not be doing what I am doing. I think that’s really big because we are a close family and if they were making me feel like I could not do rowing, then I don’t know if I would be able to do it as happily as I do.
Do you have any good luck charms/ superstitions? Last year when we were in a training camp in Italy, I happened upon a Canadian quarter in the change room. I was surprised to find Canadian money there, and I picked it up and jokingly put it in the boat. This year, when we got back, it was still there. It was kind of funny because I forgot about it, and there it was again. Now, Patricia [Obee] and I are kind of joking about how this quarter just has to stay with us.

What do you do to relax between training? I definitely watch a lot of Netflix. I like reading, but sometimes I find even that is a little hard, because sometimes I don’t want to use my brain or focus too much. On Sundays, I usually go for a walk with my boyfriend and try to get out of the city. That’s relaxing for me.

Do you ever have a cheat day? If so what do you do/eat? There is probably a little bit of that going on each day. I don’t go most days without some kind of chocolate. On Saturdays, I even have a beer or two. Especially being from Victoria, we have some amazing micro-breweries around.

Is anyone in your family or any of your friends hoping to attend the Games to support you? My parents, my sister and my boyfriend, who was a silver medalist in London 2012. He is a tourist this time and will probably have more fun.

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Aside from training, do you have another job? I took a year off after London 2012 and I worked as a kinesiologist, which I have a degree in. But while I am training, there is really just no time for anything like that.

Do you play any other sports? I did when I was younger until I started rowing. I did basically everything. Then once I started rowing, the time commitment in rowing is so much greater than any other sport that I did. I basically had to stop everything else.

If you weren’t an athlete, what would you like to do? I would definitely want to still be able to travel, because I feel like going to all these different places has really given me an amazing outlook on life. So I feel I would find a way to get a job where I could go places, like a photographer maybe.

Have you been in Brazil before? I have been to Rio twice now. The first time was with a team that was thought to be likely to qualify for the Olympics. It was an orientation type of trip, not based around training, so we had a lot of fun and got to feel the vibe of the city. The second time last year, was after we had qualified. We did an actual training camp, where we trained on the lake and got a feel for the water, so it was more of a serious trip. It was nice to go the second time, because everything that people are saying about Rio in terms of the crime, how dangerous it is, how dirty it is, you go the second time and you feel that much more at home and you realize it’s not that big of a deal. I actually feel very comfortable there now.

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If you have time outside of the Games, where would you like to go or try or eat or drink in Rio? My boyfriend and I are definitely going to stay a little longer with my rowing partner and her boyfriend as well and try to catch a few beach days. We would like to do a couple of cool hikes and hopefully make our way to the Amazon.

Are you concerned about the Zika virus or the political situation in the country?  Maybe I am naive to not be, but I am not worried about Zika at all. But I am concerned about getting sick in general. On both trips, we had a good number of people who came down with something when we were down there. You can take as many precautions as you want, but sometimes you just don’t see it coming. I hope that we fall on the lucky side of that. We are going to do everything we can to reduce our chances of getting sick. But you just never really know. It would be a real shame for that to have some kind of effect on the result. But you can only do your best really.

Do you know how to say anything in Portuguese? Terrible. I know “obrigado” [“Thank you” in Portuguese]. I will walk around saying “thank you” to everyone, that’s about it.