Janine Hanson’s purse has been heavier than usual lately.
Ever since Aug. 2, when she became an Olympic silver medallist as part of the Canadian women’s eight rowing team, Hanson has been carrying around an extra load.
"I keep it in my purse," the 29-year-old said of her treasured new prize in a phone interview from her home in London, Ont., where she lives and trains with the national team.
"The first comment I get from a lot of people is it’s really heavy. I weighed it on my kitchen food scale and it’s just under a pound. I do often check my purse to see if it’s still there."
In the aftermath of Canada’s second-place finish at the Eton Dorney rowing venue west of London, the medal felt as light as a feather. By the time that evening’s celebrations were winding down, however, it was starting to feel a little heavier.
Ever since Hanson’s been home in Ontario, the medal has been making the rounds, and the next stop is Winnipeg on Aug. 29.
"I just really love sharing the medal with everyone else," said the St. Mary’s Academy graduate, who grew up in Charleswood before rowing for the University of Michigan. "I think it’s a rare occasion that people get to see an Olympic medal, especially kids. I’ll happily show it to kids wherever I am."
After finishing a disappointing eighth as a member of the women’s quad sculls team in Beijing in 2008, Hanson made the shift to sweeping (with only one oar.)
"After Beijing I knew right away that was not enough," she said. "I knew I could do better than eighth, and I had lots of room to grow."
She joined the eight-woman boat in 2010 along with six of the athletes who would ultimately row alongside her at the Olympics. Training and competing together for two years, they became a second family.
"We love each other like a family and at times we fight like a family," Hanson said. "That’s always going to happen in any group in a competitive environment. "
In the race for the gold, the rival Americans got off to a quick start and the Canadians couldn’t close the gap. They made up 3/4 of a second in the final 500 metres, but still finished 1.47 seconds behind.
Hanson’s thoughts immediately went to the work she had put in and the people who supported her.
"I was excited to share it with my family," she said. "Eight family members came to the Games. As soon as I got my medal I turned to them to show them. They invested in the trip in the fall of 2010 with no idea what would happen, trusting that I could make the boat."
Hanson’s future doesn’t include another Olympics.
"I’m really happy with where I was, and I’m thrilled with a silver medal," she said. "I don’t feel like I left any stone unturned. Life has so many things to offer."
She’s getting married in February, and plans to move back to Winnipeg in a year to work with autistic children. Hanson will also be a regular at the Winnipeg Rowing Club, where she got her start in the sport.