Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Smith, Rempel row boats to gold

Winnipeg team cleans up in Duluth

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As the mother of a three-year-old son as well as a full-time employee of the University of Manitoba in the faculty of kinesiology and recreation management, 34-year-old triathlete and sculler Brandi Smith realizes that her best days as an athlete may be slipping behind her.

Kaitlin Rempel, on the other hand, took up rowing two years ago, and the 23-year-old had to do it part time as she was playing basketball for the University of Winnipeg Wesmen.

Now that her univesity basketball career has come to an end, her career on the water is beginning to take off.

Smith and Rempel anchored a team of Winnipeg Rowing Club members to seven gold medals last weekend at the North Western International Rowing Association championship regatta in Duluth, Minn. Rempel, Smith, Nia Perron and Claudia Blandford each earned two gold medals.

Rempel won in the open women's single event, and then teamed with Perron, Blandford and Natasha Tersigni to win the open women's quad. Smith was victorious in the lightweight women's single dash, and then she and Andrew Lamont won the mixed masters double.

Perron and Blandford won their second gold medals as a team in the open women's double.

Gold medals were won by Paul Thiessen in open men's single, and the junior B men's quad of Maxwell Harley, Ben Dearing, Anselm Ragetli and Joshua Ilse.

"I think we did well in our strong events," said Smith. "We are a sculling club, and that is where we picked up our medals. At least as long as I have been here (10 years), it has been primarily sculling."

"This will be almost exactly two years in rowing now," said Rempel, who embraces the opportunity to move on from basketball. "I played basketball for a long time, and thoroughly enjoyed my time with the Wesmen program. It was great, but when I was done, I was done."

A former provincial rowing team member, Smith no longer can commit to the training required to keep moving up in the sport, but that's okay by her. "For me now, it is more of a lifestyle, but I like to be competitive. As long as I can stay relatively fast and fit I will stay with it."

Rempel's goals are more lofty. "Rowing has improved my endurance, strength and stamina. It made a huge difference for how I was able to compete (in basketball) and stay in the game longer. I am in the best shape that I have ever been, and I am steadily improving."

Acknowledging she still has a lot to learn on the water, Rempel wants to row for the national team. "I know the potential is there. At this point it wouldn't be worth my time if there wasn't the chance that it could happen. This summer was great for me in that we went to some competitions that were bigger than I had been to last year, so I was competing with athletes who had been at it longer, and who are bigger and stronger than I am.

"Now that I know where I need to go, and what I need to do, I am looking forward to giving it all this winter. I'll train full time over the winter, and ideally see some success at the bigger regattas next summer and see where that takes me."

In July Rempel competed at the Royal Canadian Henley Regatta in St. Catherines. "I was quite pleased with my results. In the open women's single I made the semifinal, and I was competing against stiff competition from Canada, the United States, and a couple of Argentinian national team members.

"I also won the senior women's single dash (500-metre sprint)."

Putting in the miles, and learning to row more efficiently, are two aspects of the sport Rempel believes she needs to improve on in order to make the national team.

"I also need to build my strength. I am stronger over the shorter distances than the longer ones, so I need to focus my energy to build up my endurance and aerobic system. That means a lot of volume for me for the next while."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 25, 2011 C6

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