Stone’s eyes set on senior national rowing team

Gaels rower to take winter semester off to train full-time

Gavin Stone was named the 2018 OUA Rowing Male Athlete of the Year.
Gavin Stone was named the 2018 OUA Rowing Male Athlete of the Year.
Credit: 
Supplied by Michael Bryenton

Gavin Stone is set on reaching the international stage. 

The fourth-year rower—who was recently named OUA Male Athlete of the Year after finishing first at the Canadian University Rowing Championships and winning two OUA gold medals this season—is putting his academics on hold next semester to train with Canada’s rowing program. 

Stone’s no stranger to competing at the national level. A current member of the under-23 rowing team, he’s represented Canada at the past two under-23 world championships. 

In 2017, during his first season with the under-23 team, Stone had the opportunity to live and train at the National Training Centre (NTC) in British Columbia, which he said had been a goal of his “for a while.”

“To make [the team] kind of confirmed that I do have the potential to go further,” he said. 

Shortly after Stone began training with the national team, he competed at his first under-23 world championships, held in Sarasota, Florida. It was his first glimpse of international competition. 

 “Going [international] for the first time and seeing all the different countries—it blows your mind how many people are there,” he said. Stone raced in the men’s 4x, his boat placing first overall in the B final. 

In 2018, Stone competed in his second under-23 world championships in Poznan, Poland, as a part of the men’s 8x, the technical term for an 8-man boat. They placed fifth in the “A” final—the strongest class of rowers. 

“It’s pretty cool to race against the best in the world, even at the [under]-23 level, because you kind of get to see where you’re strong and where you’re weak,” Stone said. “[I]t gives you time to make improvements so that next year you can do better.”

Most recently, Stone had the opportunity to race against people who have already achieved his goal of reaching the Olympics at the Canadian National Rowing Championships. Beside him on the starting line was New Zealand rower Mahe Drysdale, who is a current Olympic gold medalist and five-time world champion in the sculls. Canadian Olympic silver medalist Will Crothers was also on the water.

Stone, 21 years old, finished ahead of Drysdale in second place.

“That was really cool. That was probably my favourite race [of my career],” he said. 

In his current attempts to make the senior team, rowing has become Stone’s full-time job. When he moves to B.C. for the winter, it’ll be his sole focus.

“[Rowers at the NTC are] doing a lot of volume right now […] the winter is definitely their building phase,” he said, which he claimed may make transition difficult. 

Regardless of his strong performances for the under-23 team, Stone intends to make the most improvements possible before the senior team is selected in late March. With the resources of the NTC at his fingertips, Stone believes his ceiling for growth will be much higher. 

“It’s obviously the best training environment, and it’s an exciting opportunity for sure.”

While selection for the senior team is only four months away, Stone said that if he doesn’t make the senior national team, he’ll be able to remain in B.C. to train for his last year as an under-23 athlete. 

If Stone secures a spot on the national team, he’ll be competing at the senior world championships this year.

The championships serve as the qualifying races for the 2020 Canadian Olympic team. 

A certain number of the top boats at the championship regatta qualify the country’s boat for the Olympics—but not the specific athletes. The athletes are not guaranteed a spot at the Olympic Games, and are selected at a later date. 

But this works out to Stone’s 

advantage—if he isn't named to the senior national team this summer, he’ll still have a chance at getting selected to compete at the Olympics.

“Because I’m in a position where I might be likely to make a boat, I’ll stay out there for the full year and try to commit to it,” he said.

Depending on his performance this summer, Stone may not return to Queen’s until his future in rowing is determined.

“It’s a big change and putting school on hold is obviously a pretty big decision, but I feel as though [I] kind of have to,” Stone said. “I obviously want to see how far I can go in rowing.

“I have potential in front of me.”

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