Wintery conditions challenge elite rowers

After almost a year of training, 17-year-old Calgary rower Karen Lefsrud is often unable to train outdoors because of the long winter months in Calgary.

With the help of the Row to Podium program, Lefsrud is in training for the Olympics. She says her water time is limited in winter months, but with help from coach Sarah Laing, the duo comes up with alternatives.

“Because we’re out of the water six months out of the year, we spend a lot of time in the tank,” Laing said. “It’s an indoor water facility with two pools of water so you can row inside. It just gives you the opportunity to practice that technique but obviously you don’t get the balance aspect of it.”

Lefsrud echoes her coach’s concerns. She said learning the technique on the water is one of the biggest challenges because she could easily flip the boat without these skills. Lefsrud said she wishes she could get on the outdoor water more.

“It’s really hard because there are a lot of people elsewhere in the country that also have the same goal,” Lefsrud said. “You just have to train as hard as you can and worry about yourself.”

Lefsrud’s challenges go beyond water conditions. Like most Olympic athletes in training, she must balance many other responsibilities. She is still in high school and plays other sports, including hockey and rugby. Though it is hard, Lefsrud says she likes being able to push herself to see what she can handle.

Coach Laing said it’s critical to schedule practice times accordingly.

“The biggest thing is we don’t burn her out,” Laing said.

Lefsrud is training for two competitions this summer. She will be trying out for Junior World Nationals and Canada Summer Games. She hopes to make Canada’s Olympic rowing team which will compete at the 2020 Olympic Games.

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