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Strokes of Success

St. Mary’s student help win Manitoba’s first Canada Games canoeing gold medal

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Hannah Guttormson, 17, is a national paddling competitor for Manitoba. She attends St. Mary's Academy and lives in River Heights.

STEPH CROSIER Enlarge Image

Hannah Guttormson, 17, is a national paddling competitor for Manitoba. She attends St. Mary's Academy and lives in River Heights. Photo Store

Out of bed at 5:30 a.m., training at 6:15 a.m., at school for 8:30 a.m., at the paddling club for 4:30 p.m., finished at 7 p.m.

This is Hannah Guttormson’s life three days a week. Three other days also include morning training; this schedule gives her one day and an afternoon off.

A warning: don’t tell this 17-year-old girls can’t paddle.

"There are paddlers who are quite sexist towards women’s canoe," Guttormson said. "That can be frustrating, because we do try. We train as many times a week as the boys do, and it’s not like I go into a race and I don’t care about it."

Guttormson says she’s nervous at the start of a race. She’s the one who’s shaking. She hears the crowd, she hears her competitors, but once the horn blows, nothing is there but her breathing and the water.

"You don’t hear anything," Guttormson said. "Then the last 100 metres, you hear all the screaming, and that’s the adrenaline rush… It’s stressful, but it’s a lot of fun. It’s what I love to do."

Guttormson has raced for Team Manitoba with coach Jerome Seremak since her Grade 9 year at St. Mary’s Academy. Since then, she has competed in the Western Canada Games, the Canada Games, and was named female rookie of the year in 2011 and female athlete of the year in 2012 from Sport Manitoba.

In 2011 Guttormson went to nationals and admits she was learning. In 2012, she won silver and bronze, and finally at this past year’s Canada Games in Sherbrooke, Que., Guttormson won bronze for the individual 5,000-metre, bronze as Team Manitoba with her partner Stephanie Lowrie in the 500-metre, and her first gold again with Lowrie in the 5,000-metre. 

Guttormson won her individual bronze, and gold with her partner, on the same day. First she won the bronze, which was the first medal won by a single women’s canoeist at the Canada Games in Manitoba history. Then she competed with Lowrie under two hours later.

"We got the gold which was the first gold for canoe/kayak for Manitoba," Guttormson said. "It is really great since it was women’s canoers that were able to get it."

Now in her final year at the all-girls school, she knows there are few paddling scholarships to be won. She would like to be a nurse one day and has decided she would like to go to the University of Manitoba for a semester, then focus on her paddling for the spring semester.

Once the rivers freeze, Seremak has Guttormson and her teammates on paddling machines, rowing machines, lifting weights, playing sports, and her personal favourite: spinning.
Guttormson said she likes the variety.

"I cannot sit still, I have to keep moving," Guttormson said. "You can never get bored because we are always doing something different."

Guttormson said her teachers at St. Mary’s would like her to be around more, but they are supportive. Every year in March, Guttormson will go away for a month down south to train and prepare for summer competition. For three years Team Manitoba has travelled to Florida. This year they will be heading to Texas.

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