It’s been a medal-less past couple of years. We’ve done well and we definitely progressed but we didn’t have that oomph to really excel. This year has seen some dramatic changes in team members and attitude. For our medal race, we were the under dog and this puppy bit hard.
The emotions were raw and the exhaustion was obvious but wow were we happy. Our win wasn’t just by a nose hair, rather it was almost a boat length. When we crossed the 500m mark, I had known that we won but I didn’t realize by how much.
Coach then send us the following letter and I’m reprinting it with his permission:
What a way to cap off a solid weekend of racing!
I am very proud by the display of heart and grit in pulling off an amazing performance! Without question, it is the best race that I’ve had the honour to be a part of!
We came into the final race ranked second, but also the underdog as the team ahead of us had posted a time 2 seconds faster on Saturday. Out of the gates we had a good start, but the top seed to our right had a bigger jump and immediately pulled ahead. Collectively, we decided that each person had to rise to the occasion for their team. This was the day we take the challenge and pushed your bodies to the limit.
However this was not just a one race effort, but two years in the making. In the past two seasons, you guys worked harder and harder to get fitter. For the past few months the boat has been connecting well as a crew. Hard practice after hard practice we pushed ourselves. This was the day you all were determined to take on that challenge to race like you want to be in A-Division!
As one, we dug deep and began to execute our race. Our goal was simple. Stay big, dig deep and give our all to grab every inch of water with every stroke. With a solid transition we powered on. By 50m the team of determined paddlers before me had already pulled up beside the lead boat. But we knew the task at hand was to deliver the best race we can possible muster. No one even had the time to look around. The focus was singular—to keep pushing to the threshold with every single stroke. Our boat began inching away from the pack.
At the 200m mark it was clear from my vantage point that we were ahead. But not a single paddler in the boat knew it. And it didn’t matter, this was the race of our lives and we kept pushing. It was time to “Fuck the Pain”, and get down to business! With every stroke the lead widened, and we kept pushing. Finally, with 1 buoy to go, it was an all out push to empty the gas tank.
As we crossed the finished line, I saw the most exhausted crew I’ve ever steered across the line. Still hunched over, everyone looked around with joy, exhilaration, and a deep sense of pride and connection like I’ve never had seen before among teammates. High fives, hugging, and crying tears of joy—while still trying to catch a breath. It was an emotional sight, and a coaching experience I will cherish forever.
Smoke, you now know what it takes to be true winners. When your pour all your energy into racing for your teammates you always win! Truly it did not matter what place we came in for how much heart was poured into this race. However to push together and do it for your team and come out on top to win by almost a full boat length made the effort that much sweeter!
So proud of you Smoke! =D
All in all, this was a damn fine email to read.