Rowing: Veteran Canada cox loves magic of the water
By Angus MacSwan
RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - The rowers in Canada's women's eight boat were not even born when their cox Lesley Thompson-Willie made her Olympic debut back in 1984 in Los Angeles.
As the Rio 2016 Olympic Games get underway, the 56-year-old Thompson-Willie becomes only the second female athlete to compete at eight Olympic Games, joining canoe sprinter Josefa Idem-Guerrini in that pantheon.
"I love coxing," she said. "There's nothing like the feeling of a boat going fast. It's magic in the water -- it's effortless even though the athletes are working terribly hard."
Her Olympic journey got off to a false start when she made the team for the Moscow Olympics in 1980 but Canada joined a boycott. Since then she has competed in every Games except Athens in 2004, when she was coaching the national under-23 side.
The highlight was in Barcelona in 1992 when she coxed the women’s eight to gold. She has also claimed silvers in 1984, in Atlanta in 1996, and London in 2012, as well as a bronze in Sydney in 2000.
Winning a gold on the Rodrigo de Freitas Lake in Rio would cap her career as this is likely to be her last Olympics -- although she hasn't entirely ruled out another.
"You never say never," she said.
However, others are challenging for her seat and she admits it is getting harder to make the 50kg weight required of international coxes.
"I noticed a few things. I'm maybe a little bit stiffer in the morning, it takes me longer to stretch out," she said.
Her young crew range in age from 19 to 29 and she has nothing but praise for them.
"They're very competitive, they're very powerful, well trained," she said. "They'll be well rested, well coached, but also very set on the same path, the same goal."
(Reporting by Angus MacSwan; Editing by Toby Davis)Modified 20 Mar 2019, 14:54 IST