|Little Big Man|
|Wednesday, 18 July 2012 12:59|
Terry Paul gets Canada rowing in the right direction
By Emma Gilchrist
Terry Paul didn’t find rowing — it found him.
He was in Grade 9 in Peterborough, Ont., when members of Trenton University’s rowing program visited his school to start a rowing program. Paul was playing basketball, but at five-foot-six, his height was a handicap.
The opposite was true when he got into the boat as a coxswain, whose job is to steer the boat and coach the crew when out on the water. With a minimum weight requirement of just 110 pounds, the coxswain must be small.
Paul fit the bill, being so light he had to take weights aboard to reach the minimum requirement. “I was maybe 75 pounds, so I couldn’t even carry the weight,” he chuckles. “The first year I didn’t make the first crew. Another guy beat me out.”
Little did he know he’d go on to become an Olympic gold medallist and head coach of this year’s 2012 Olympic men’s rowing team (small-boat group).
“Rowing kind of found me and I ended up having this niche role I could play that was tailor-made just for me,” Paul says.
In 1992, Paul’s crew won an Olympic gold medal in Barcelona. Ten minutes after winning, Paul retired from rowing — or at least from being in the boat.
He quickly took up coaching with the national team program in Victoria — a natural progression for a coxswain. “Coming out of my experience as an athlete, I was really keen to share that information and my knowledge,” Paul says.
The 47-year-old hangs on to his passion for rowing by constantly learning. In the past five years his coaching has evolved with the advent of sports science available through the Canadian Sport Centre Pacific. Even while training at their camp in Italy, Paul’s team includes experts such as sports physiologists and technologists from the sports centre.
He has also integrated more cross-training into the rowing program, including three to four road rides a week in the winter, to avoid injuries. “We’re not spending as much time on the water,” he says. “By varying stimulus, you’re always keeping the body guessing and also keeping the body healthy.”
Going into this summer’s Olympics, Paul is cautiously optimistic after watching his crews set personal bests this year. Ultimately, though, he says the ability to win comes down to psychology: “People are afraid to dream about it. It’s about getting the athletes to trust themselves enough to really perform.”