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This article was published 14/5/2016 (2034 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
When looking at Emma Gray’s sporting accomplishments — the list is long and includes gold medals, black belts and national-stage appearances in multiple sports — you might think she was a seasoned veteran, perhaps approaching her 30s.
But you’d be wrong. Gray is just 18.
She’s played football, gone to nationals as a member of Manitoba’s provincial basketball team, trained and competed in Olympic weightlifting and owns a black belt in taekwondo.
"I get bored easy; I have to constantly try new things," Gray says. "I’m interested in a bunch of different things."
Now Gray has taken up rowing, a sport she admits she knew nothing about when she got involved with it. With just over a year in a boat under her belt, she’s already being groomed as a future Olympian after being identified by Rowing Canada as an athlete with the highest level of potential and ability to make it to the future Games podium for Canada, according to Canadian Sport Centre Manitoba.
In fact, around the six-month mark, Gray was putting up times that not only rivalled the best in the country — they were the best in the country.
"It just clicked," Gray says. "It felt like this was my sport, this was where I am supposed to be. I couldn’t imagine my life without it."
As you might expect from any high-performance athlete, Gray is goal-driven. She’s gearing up for trials in June that would qualify her for the Junior World Championships in Rotterdam, Netherlands, later this year. She needs to test at 91 per cent of the women’s world record to qualify. While the numbers aren’t official, she’s been at 99.6 per cent on the rowing machines.
"If my performance on water is technically sound enough, I should have no problem hitting it," she says.
Next year, she wants to compete at the Under-23 World Championships and get on the podium. And, if all goes according to plan, she’ll be in Tokyo in 2020, the site of the 32nd Olympiad. By now, you can probably guess what colour medal she wants.
Helping her get there are Olympic-level coaches and a vegan diet, something she credits for her success in the sport.
"In terms of nutrition, I recover very fast," she says. "With rowing, you need a lots of carbs and all of my protein sources have tons of them. Because rowing is so taxing on the body, you need an insane number of micronutrients. We’re basically training as a sprinter, a marathon runner and a weightlifter."
The vegan lifestyle is still new in a power-based sport. Gray wants to prove it’s possible to achieve the highest level of success while doing so. She’s also a self-proclaimed nutrition geek, harassing her nutritionist any chance she can get.
From a training perspective, Gray’s day starts at 4:30 a.m. She’s in the boat by 5 a.m., in the gym at 9 a.m., chores and errands in the afternoon and another training session in the evening. Rinse and repeat.
Favourite workout: In terms of effectiveness, 500s are brutal — it’s a 500-metre sprint with different amounts of rest. We use them to gauge our splits. It sucks, but it’s a really good workout.
Favourite workout song: Something like indie rock. For a long steady row, I want the songs to be long. The biggest thing we’ve found is not to listen to the radio. Commercials are the most painful thing.
Fitness tip: Always strive to be better than what you’ve done personally; don’t compare yourself to others. Always try to be the best version of yourself.
What’s in your fridge: Rice and beans, almond milk, jam, peanut butter and a whole lot of veggies, a whole lot of kale.
Guilty pleasure: Vegan ice cream and anything fried.
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