Article by Guest Writer Jill Moffatt, Canadian Olympic Athlete, Fuelled by Cheeseburgers
Every month I cover topics that are important to both me, and Big Wheel Burger! We align on so many community initiatives so why not put them all in writing. I thought I would share what it was like to be an Olympian and the how important community support is. Thanks for reading along and joining me on my journey to the 2024 Paris Olympic Games!
Hello and Happy July!
July is always an exciting month for me, as the Canadian rowing team spends the first half of the month competing in Europe. Unlike sports like hockey or soccer, we don’t have many competitions outside of the summer months (our World Cup season), so our competition schedule begins in June and ends in September. That means we spend most of our year training and we rarely get to see our competition. I thought I would take the chance to give an update on our World Cup season and what’s coming up next!
World Cup 2
In rowing, we have three World Cups that countries can compete at (with the venue usually located in Europe). Typically, World Cup 1 is too early in the year to garner out of continent competition, so Rowing Canada will target World Cup 2 and 3. These competitions are about 3 weeks apart, so we stay for an extended trip and make the most of our time in Europe.
We headed mid June to World Cup 2 in Varese, Italy. It felt serendipitous to me as I competed in Varese at my first Under 23 World Rowing Championships in 2014 (we placed 3rd in the C final… not my best result!). We got settled into some hot weather, and recognized very quickly that the water in Varese was very fast. This can happen due to current, heat, or other factors. And we were right, World Records were broken over the course of the regatta (including our event).
For those who may not know, I compete in the lightweight women’s double (meaning we have two oars and weigh in two hours before racing at 57kg). I race alongside my partner from the Tokyo Olympics, Jenny Casson. At this event we were slated to compete against the previous World Champions, the silver medallists at last year’s World Championships, and the Olympic silver medallists… the competition was hot.
Despite flying in less than a week before we raced, Jenny and I got off to a great start and cruised into the A-Final. We hit some personal best times, but in the a-final came 5th (2 seconds off third and .2 off 4th). We were happy with our performances but left hungry for more. It was exciting to be so close to a medal position, and a great sign that our winter training had paid off.
Henley Royal Regatta
This event was two weekends after World Cup 2, and for the first time since 2014, Rowing Canada attended. Henley Royal Regatta is the most prestigious rowing event outside of the Olympics, and is the most well-known rowing race. It offers “dual style” racing, until the bracket is complete and there is a winner for each event. It’s held in Henley-on-Thames in England, and over 300,000 people descend over the week to watch the racing. It’s akin to Wimbledon, and many come as part of the English social scene (including dress codes of rowing blazers, dresses below the knees, and fascinators… it is a culture shock). It wasn’t until 2016 that women had the same number of events as the men.
Jenny and I were entered in the “Stonor Cup Challenge” which translates to the women’s double. There are no lightweight events at Henley so this meant that Jenny and I raced in the openweight category.
Racing dual style means that you take a different approach. Since it is just you and another boat, it is much more psychological. Jenny and I practiced our starts often, hoping to jump out on our competition and defeat them from the beginning. This proved to work well and after three races, we found ourselves in the Henley Final.
The cool thing about Henley is that the river is FLOODED with people and boats. For the entire 2112m of racing, there are people from start to finish. Either moored to the course in their party boat and an arms length away, or on the shore line cheering. The mood for our final was electric and unlike anything I’ve ever experienced
Jenny and I ended up winning the final, which was a once in a career kind of moment. We accepted our trophy and champagne alongside our winning women’s eight, and it was an incredible experience.
World Cup 3
Quickly after racing at Henley, we flew to Luzern, Switzerland for World Cup 3. A similar format to World Cup 2, Jenny and I entered in the lightweight women’s double. World Cup 3 is typically everyone’s favourite regatta because it is always in Luzern, which is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever visited. The course is perfect and typically has great conditions.
We faced off against most of our competition, and we found ourselves in a tough semi-final against the World Champions (GB), the bronze medallists from last year’s Worlds, and a new combo from Romania which included the 2x World Champion. Jenny and I felt good and decided to try our Henley style of racing by going out quite hard. We knew GB were operating at a different level (setting the new World Best time at WC2 and an unbeaten streak of 2 years), so our goal was to beat out Ireland and Romania. We set off on a hot pace and with 500m left looked good to secure our a-final.
And as Carrie Bradshaw would say, “and just like that”… the travel and racing from the previous week caught up to us. In that last 500m we realized we may have overcooked ourselves and didn’t have much gas in the tank. We ended up 4th by 1.5 seconds, and relegated to the b-final. It turned out our semi-final was the most competitive semi at the regatta!
At the moment I was really upset, but I can look back now and see the tactical mistake we made of going out too hard (and not taking into consideration the extra racing we had the weekend before). Our event is extremely competitive, and if you aren’t at 100%, it’s unforgiving. It was a great lesson, and we went on to win our b-final.
Next month we will be leaving for the World Rowing Championships, which act as our Olympic Qualifiers. We start racing September 3rd, and to qualify Canada for the Paris Olympics in 2024, Jenny and I will need to place in the top 7 (make the a-final or win the b-final).
We are now back training on Shawnigan and Quamichan lake, refining our skills and making sure we do everything right to be at 100% for the qualifiers. We are motivated, excited and ready to give it our all!
Thanks for the support, and see you next month!
My name is Jill Moffatt and I am an Olympic rower living in Shawnigan Lake, B.C. Big Wheel Burger is supporting me on my path to the Olympics and in exchange I’ll be sharing parts of that journey with you! Follow along each month for behind the scenes stories and other things outside of rowing that I am passionate about. Thanks for reading along and joining me on my journey to the 2024 Paris Olympic Games!