RRC engineering student racing toward Olympics

Adrian McMorris, CONTRIBUTOR

Emma Gray, 20, is cheered on by her teammates as she rows her team to a first place finish in the Canada Indoor Rowing Championships on Sunday, Feb.5, 2017. THE PROJECTOR/ Adrian McMorris

Emma Gray, 20, recently broke her personal 2000-metre indoor rowing record by two seconds, to the loud cheers of her teammates, friends, and former Olympian, Janine Hanson.

The Winnipeg Rowing Club (WRC) hosted their annual indoor rowing championships on Feb. 5. Club members and members of the media partook in a loud, recreational, and physically challenging event.

Participants mounted their ergs (indoor rowing machines), strapped in their feet, and went head to head with other competitors ranging from junior to senior.

Gray won the junior athlete of the year award at the 2017 World Rowing Conference and Rowing Canada Aviron national awards ceremony. She is setting rowing records that are on pace with some Olympic athletes. Her 2000m time is now just a few seconds behind the top women in Olympic competitions.

And Gray only started rowing two years ago. Her coaches said she excelled almost immediately.

“I looked at her and knew that she was going to be great,” said RoseAnna Schick, publicist for the WRC.

The WRC has operated since 1881, stopping only twice for WWI and WWII. The WRC is one of the oldest sporting organizations in Canada but despite its history and turning out a few Olympians, the club still suffers from low enrollment.

Janine Hanson, President of the WRC, rows against the senior rowers in a 2000m race in 7:51. Hanson won a silver medal at the 2012 London Olympics. THE PROJECTOR/ Adrian McMorris

“There aren’t many rowers in Manitoba so we’ll take just about anyone who can move a boat relatively fast,” said Hanson, now the club’s president.

“This event is mostly for fun for most of our members but we know that Emma takes it very seriously because she has to keep track of all her times in order to qualify for the bigger championships,” said Schick.

Gray will compete in the upcoming 2017 Canada Summer Games in Winnipeg, with dreams of the Summer Olympics on her mind.

Gray’s record-breaking time clocked in at 6:39, 30 seconds ahead of her closest competitor. After the race, she lay down on the floor, crawled to congratulate her teammates, stood up breathing heavily and exclaimed, “I can do it again!”

She rowed shortly after with her 4x500m relay team as the anchor to finish off the race well ahead of the rest of the pack.

Gray’s coach, Antony Patterson, touted her success, saying she is as good as some Olympians, is breaking records, and is one of the top rated rowers in Canada. But there’s something else about Emma that blows him away.

“She’s one of the best rowers in Canada and she’s a vegan. I just don’t understand it,” said Patterson.