As Fiona Rettie stands on the dock at Winnipeg Rowing Club wearing her winner’s medal, there’s a glint of gold reflecting off the Red River.
Rettie — along with Brandi Smith, Hanika Nakagawa and Tracy Taylor — placed first in the lightweight women’s quad at the 37th Western Canada Sprints Regatta on Wascana Lake hosted by Regina Rowing Club on June 14.
Organizers say the annual competition attracted 279 competitors from six rowing clubs from Winnipeg, Kenora, Regina, Saskatoon, Calgary and Edmonton. WRC sent 34 rowers to compete in junior, open and master events. In the end, rowers from the Lyndale Drive-based club won seven gold medals in various categories.
Rettie, 17, who recently graduated from Balmoral Hall School having previously attended Collège Jeanne-Sauvé, began her love affair with rowing half a decade ago after her dad signed up for a "learn to row" event at the club — and the St. Vital resident hasn’t looked back since.
"I didn’t expect rowing to become such a big part of my life, as it was really a shot in the dark, but after that event, it just went from there. I ended up loving it," Rettie said.
Noting that rowing might not be the first sport many young athletes try their hand at, the five-foot-seven teen said it sometimes attracts individuals a little later in life who still maintain the drive to be competitive and successful. In her case, it was hockey, soccer and basketball.
"Rowing is kind of overlooked as a sport and many rowers tend to start when they’re a little older. Lots of extremely successful rowers are competitive in other sports first. Factors such as fitness and teamwork carry over into rowing, which are elements that drew me to the sport," Rettie said.
"It’s tactical in a different way to many sports, as it’s both an individual and team sport. You have to work on your own skills and work together with your teammates. I love being outside, being on the water and meeting new people. And I’ve always been a very competitive person, so I love that aspect of it."
Rettie said the recent daylong regatta was a jam-packed affair, which began with a 5 a.m. weigh-in for competitors. Before competing in the lightweight women’s quad event, Rettie and Nakagawa also took part in a doubles event.
"It was a very long, but rewarding day. It felt awesome to win in the quad event," Rettie said.
She said the fact that events such as regatta are mostly club-based means it doesn’t take long to develop a strong camaraderie with club members.
"I love it. There’s really a club dynamic, so you get to know everyone, including rowers of all ages. It’s such a tight group," she said.
WRC will run a series of summer camps, that Rettie helps coach, starting the second week of July, aimed at kids aged 11 to 14, to give them a taste of the sport.
"They will be on the water and there will be physical and team building activities. I think (the participants) will have a lot of fun with it."
To learn more about WRC, visit rowwrc.wordpress.com