Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Rowers will keep love afloat

They're heading in opposite directions to train, but calls, texting will fill gap

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The national rowing team is splitting up Emily Cameron and Kevin Kowalyk.

The two Winnipeg Rowing Club athletes, who not only row together, but are also a couple, are leaving this weekend to train with the national team and hopefully crack the lineup with one of the crews for the world championships in New Zealand this October.

The problem is, however, that Cameron is packing her bags to head east to London, Ont., to train with the women, while Kowalyk is hopping a plane to Victoria, on the West Coast, to train with the men.

As east is east and west is west, it may be awhile before the twain will meet again. "Hopefully it will work out," said Cameron, adding that they'll be running up texting and phone bills while apart. "We plan to stay together, in the sense of the term, but if we want to do this (make the national team), there is no other way to do it. We are also thinking of setting up a blog so people can keep in touch with us."

The two met in 2008 at the Royal Henley Regatta in St. Catharines, Ont., and it was love at first sight. At least for Cameron it was.

"When I met her, she was living in Mississauga," Kowalyk recalled. "It was on the second-last day of racing and we met in a pub called the Kilt and Clover. We kind of hit it off, and next thing I know, I had this crazy girl from Mississauga calling me and saying, 'I'm coming to Winnipeg in two weeks to visit you.'

"So I pick her up and gave her a tour of Manitoba, and the next thing I knew, she's telling me she was going to move in. So I thought, 'Well, she's a pretty witty girl and fun to be with,' and so I let her, and she moved in last April, right after I lost my job."

Cameron, who holds a master of science degree in molecular anthropology, attended the national spring training camp in Florida in January. From there, she was invited to spend the summer training in London. "It's technically not even a camp," she said. "I'm moving to the full-time training centre, and basically, rowing with the (national team) members at the camp is the best way to get fast. Depending on how well it goes, there's a chance to make a crew. It's a big gamble, but (at this time) no seat (in a boat) is a sure thing."

Cameron, who has rowed for less than four years, has already won a gold medal in the club women's four at Boston's Head of the Charles Regatta in 2007, finished in the top 10 at the championship women's four at the 2008 Head of the Charles, and took gold in the open women's single at the 2009 North Western International Regatta in Minnesota.

Ever since his first appearance at the Royal Canadian Henley in 2007, where he captured the gold medal in men's single, and then won gold again in 2009 in men's dash, Kowalyk has been on Rowing Canada's radar. He trained with the national men's team in Victoria last month and was encouraged to return for summer training. "There is absolutely no way to be successful without being pushed every day by people who are better than you are, or at the very least catch you in short order if you aren't giving 100 per cent."

The first-year mechanical engineering student at the University of Manitoba has also won the men's single dash, men's single and men's double at the Northwest International Regatta in 2007 and 2009 and placed sixth at the Canadian nationals in 2008 and 2009.

allan.besson@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 4, 2010 A35

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