Emma Gray has only been rowing for less than two years, yet the sky’s the limit for the number of accolades she could achieve in the sport.
It was announced recently that the 18-year-old Winnipeg Rowing Club member is among 25 young Canadian athletes who will receive ongoing support through the RBC Training Ground program, which is innovative initiative designed to test and link undiscovered athletes with a sport that could push them on to the podium, officials say.
The RBC program is being run in partnership with the Canadian Olympic Foundation (COF), Canadian Olympic Committee (COC), and CBC Sports.
Last February, when the St. Vital resident had been rowing for less than a year, she exceeded every elite benchmark set by Rowing Canada at the Montreal region RBC Training Ground event when her strength and endurance results caught the eye. In September, the University of Manitoba student won two junior gold medals at the Rowing Canada Aviron (RAC) national rowing championships in Burnaby, B.C.
Because of this progress, Gray has been awarded funding of up to $10,000 per year for up to three years, which will help her take part in more international events. Of the 25 athletes on the list, Gray is the only one from Manitoba.
She told The Lance that the funding will "help to alleviate the financial pressure of travel and competition fees, which helps me to better focus on my training and education."
Gray said the Montreal train program event was a fun experience and she was pleased to note the improvements she’s made in the sport.
"(It) had tests geared towards a variety of sports, such as bobsled, cycling, track and rugby, as well as rowing," Gray said, noting she has the 2017 Canada Summer Games and the U23 world championships in her sights this year.
"You had to complete all the testing and then, after the results were tabulated, the specific sport organization would contact athletes who showed promise in their sport and offer varying levels of funding. The rowing-specific testing was exactly the same as the RTP (Registered Testing Pool) testing I did when I first got into rowing."
The wintertime also gives Gray a welcome chance to change pace and work on areas of her performance that might need work.
"It’s a nice change-up and a good opportunity to improve on weak areas that may be ‘swept under the rug’ during competition season," she said.
"I honestly just love to train and push myself, even more than I love to compete, so the winter season probably requires less motivation, though nothing compares to on-water training so I can’t help but miss that a bit."