Lauren Wilkinson is an Olympic medallist, but she thinks she can learn from Nelson’s students.
Wilkinson, a two-time Olympian who won silver with Canada’s coxed women’s eight team in 2012, was in Nelson last week to speak at Trafalgar Middle School and help train young rowers with the Nelson Rowing Club.
But the students were also helping Wilkinson, who retired in 2017 and is now working on a bachelor of education at the University of British Columbia with aspirations of being a teacher.
“It’s often a bit of a misconception. Just because you can do the sport doesn’t make you a good coach,” she said.
Wilkinson’s visit was part of UBC’s community field experience program, which encourages future teachers to use their experience in new environments.
It also coincided with a request from the Nelson Rowing Club to Rowing BC for some help promoting its rejuvenated junior program.
So last week, Wilkinson fielded questions about her silver medal and what it takes to become an Olympic athlete.
“They have lots of questions, like how heavy is the boat, how much do you eat, how many hours a day do you train? It’s a bit of novelty for them to hear about that really strange lifestyle as a national team athlete.”
Wilkinson started rowing when she was 11. Rowing was part of her family’s life — her parents David and Susan were both rowers (David was part of the Canadian team that boycotted the 1980 Games), while her older brother Jerome rowed provincially and other brother Michael also rowed at the 2012 Games.
She grew up in North Vancouver and learned to row at Burnaby Lake, which she describes as just over 2,000 metres, marshy and a good place to look at lily pads.
“While I was still too young to row, my brothers would be in the water and my mom would say, ‘Okay, Lauren, you and I are going to run around the lake.’ So as soon as I could, I was in that rowing boat because I really didn’t want to run around the lake with my mom.
Rowing in Nelson, which began in 1896, has its own Olympic past. Nelson native Lorne Loomer was on Canada’s first gold medal winning team in 1956.
Although the heart of B.C. rowing remains on the coast, Wilkinson was impressed by what she saw in Nelson.
“Just a tiny bit of a storied history, as in quite good for a relatively small population size but producing very good athletes, not just in rowing.”