Queen’s students, past & present, reflect on competing at the Tokyo Olympic Games

Benjamin Preisner, Gavin Stone, and Ali Ten Hove share their Olympic experiences with The Journal

For some, the Tokyo Olympics were more than just a highlight to watch on TV.
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For some, the Tokyo Olympics were more than just a highlight to watch on TV.

Students from Queen’s—past and present—were among those competing at this year’s Summer Games. The Journal reached out to three of these athletes to learn more about their experiences.

Ali Ten Hove, Sci ’19, a Canadian sailor who graduated from Queen’s in 2019, has been training for the Olympics for the past nine years. In Tokyo, she and her teammate Mariah Millen raced in the Women’s Skiff-49er FX event, finishing in 16th place.

In an interview with The Journal, Ten Hove said it didn’t hit her that she was at the Olympics until she was sailing out to complete her first race.

“I started crying happy tears because I think it hit me that wow, this is the moment, this is what it’s been building up to, all our years of hard work and everyone that supported me along the way. It was just a very emotional moment and one that I will not soon forget.”

Setting clear objectives before leaving for the Games was instrumental for Ten Hove to achieve success during her races.

“Leaving it all out on the water, coming out every single race fighting, sticking together as a team […] and just making sure we were taking it all in and enjoying the Olympic moments,” she said.

When asked about how it felt to represent Canada at the biggest multi-sport event in the world, Ten Hove was quick to say how passionate and fortunate she was to represent her hometown of Kingston.

“Kingston has a strong history of sailing excellence, so I was fortunate to benefit from that and I was very proud to represent everyone back home.”

She also expressed her gratitude to the Queen’s community for getting her to where she is today.

“I was really lucky to get the support from Queen’s and from my professors and from my classmates. It was a really great environment to allow me to further my studies but then also compete on the world stage,” She said.

With Paris 2024 just three years away, Ten Hove’s goal is to win Canada’s first ever female Olympic medal in sailing—and her team’s promising results in Tokyo have shown her they’re strong competitors with a wealth of potential.

Long-distance runner Benjamin Preisner—who begins his Masters of Management in Artificial Intelligence at Queen’s this fall—competed in the marathon event on Aug. 7, finishing in 46th place as the top Canadianin the field.

For Preisner, the reality of being an Olympian settled in when he walked through the cafeteria on his first day in Tokyo and took sight of world-class athletes sitting and talking around him. Sitting next to Damian Warner—three-time medalist and now the presiding Olympic Champion in decathlon—was a particularly striking moment.

“It was definitely surreal to meet everyone and have that team mentality when you’re there even though [the marathon] is a very individual event,” he told The Journal.

The heat in Japan was a trending topic of the Games for everyone watching at home—especially for the marathon. Preisner said that much of his mentality before his race was occupied with how he would adapt to the hot temperatures. He credited physiologists from Athletics Canada for helping him prepare.

“The deceiving part was that it was cloud-covered for the very start of the race,” Preisner explained about racing in 28 degrees Celsius and 80 per cent humidity. “So it didn’t feel like it was oppressively hot, but I think a lot of people underestimated it. I definitely felt it in the last five to 10 kilometres.”

The Olympics didn’t quite feel real for Gavin Stone, Sci ’22, a Queen’s and Team Canada rower, until he touched down in Japan. After that, the harrowing moments kept on coming. From training in Sagamihara to exploring the Olympic village and taking pictures with the Olympic rings, everything seemed to defy reality and expectation— even just sitting in the meal hall.

“People were walking around, and everyone was walking with the same confidence and had a bit of a swagger to them, and I kind of realized that everyone here is one of the best in the world at what they do,” he said. “And getting to be a part of that was just a really crazy realization.”

Stone competed in the men’s coxless four event in Tokyo and finished second in the Men’s Final B category. While proud of what he and his team accomplished, Stone still felt some disappointment with their final result, given how much training and hard work went in to qualifying for the Olympics. That said, he ultimately sees his first Olympics as an eye opener.

“It’s not so much about pure boat speed because everyone there can go fast,” he explained. “It’s about the execution and getting it right on the day of, and the consistency around that.”

“It was certainty a huge learning experience for me.”

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