Gaels rower goes international

With national glory in Queen’s sights, multitalented vet excels around the globe

A native of Bowen Island, B.C., Robinson took up rowing in grade 10 and cracked the Canadian Under-23 team this past summer.
A native of Bowen Island, B.C., Robinson took up rowing in grade 10 and cracked the Canadian Under-23 team this past summer.
Robinson (right) has won two straight heavyweight double races with partner Larkin Davenport-Huyer.
Robinson (right) has won two straight heavyweight double races with partner Larkin Davenport-Huyer.
Supplied by Robyn Finley

Both at home and overseas, Meghan Robinson is picking up where her dad left off.

The fourth-year Gaels rower made her international debut this past summer, suiting up for Canada at the World Rowing Under-23 Championships in Linz, Austria.

Racing with the women’s heavyweight eight was Robinson’s first such experience abroad — but she wasn’t the first in her family to don the maple leaf.

Robinson’s father, Doug, travelled to the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, preparing to row with Canada’s men’s eight before being sidelined with a punctured lung.

Over four decades after Doug’s dream veered off course, his daughter has righted the ship.

“I’d say he sort of helped me get into [rowing],” Robinson said. “He’s been super supportive and he knows exactly what I’m talking about when I talk about it.”

A native of Bowen Island, B.C., Robinson took up her father’s sport in grade 10, training locally with the Burnaby Lake Rowing Club.

When it came time to progress to university rowing, choosing Queen’s offered two distinct advantages: joining a rowing program with nationwide acclaim and teaming with similarly lofty-minded coaches and athletes.

“Queen’s was known back home as one of the best universities for rowing,” Robinson said. “I knew when I was graduating high school, I wanted to do international stuff — try to [qualify for] the national team.”

Transitioning to the national program, Robinson said, requires an intense devotion to off-water training. To crack Canada’s Under-23 roster, she first had to master the erg, or indoor rowing machine — another task made easier by trekking eastward for university.

“Having a six-month long winter, as is usual in Ontario, forced me to erg and be better at it,” Robinson said.

Robinson’s journey to Linz started here in Kingston, where she was ranked against other national candidates through a series of erg tests and on-water races.

An invitation to the national camp soon followed, where the veteran Gael further proved her mettle. Snagging a spot with the women’s heavyweight eight was a precursor to Linz, where Robinson and her crewmates finished fifth in the world.

“It was honestly nothing like anything you can really describe, because it’s a whole other level,” she said.

Already, she’s looking ahead. Robinson is a prime candidate for next year’s Under-23 squad, set to take the water in Varese, Italy.

Before that, there’s work to be done at home.

A drama major, Robinson’s currently the assistant technical director for Queen’s Musical Theatre’s Assassins — a production that may or may not match the drama of this year’s Canadian University rowing championships.

The Nov. 2-3 national finals will pit Queen’s women, the defending OUA champions, against the University of Victoria, who outraced the Gaels’ heavyweight eight by just two seconds in 2012.

This season’s early results indicate that Queen’s will be back at full force. Competing in the heavyweight double and eight, Robinson is perfect through the Gaels’ last two events, claiming four first-place finishes at Trent and Brock in recent weeks.

“I think we have a much stronger team this year. We have a much better chance at the [national] championship,” she said.

A voyage to Boston will come first, with the Gaels competing tomorrow and Sunday at the Head of the Charles regatta.

It’ll be the latest stop in Robinson’s whirlwind rowing tour, from B.C. to Kingston and elsewhere, with the potential for more.

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