Olympic rower Joy Ward fera (left) takes to the water of Jim Smith lake with Rockies Rowing Club member Kristen Wilson at a training session Saturday

Olympic rower Joy Ward fera (left) takes to the water of Jim Smith lake with Rockies Rowing Club member Kristen Wilson at a training session Saturday

Cranbrook Olympic alumnus joins Rockies’ rowers

On the eve of the Olympics, it was fitting that Cranbrook's Rockies Rowing Club got a visit from one of Cranbrook's legendary rowers.

Barry Coulter

On the eve of the XXXI Olympiad, which commences this week in Rio de Janeiro, it was fitting that Cranbrook’s Rockies Rowing Club got a visit from one of Cranbrook’s legendary rowers.

Joy Ward Fera, who was on Canada’s first ever women’s Olympic rowing team at the 1976 Montreal Olympics, joined the rowers Saturday morning for an extra training session at Jim Smith Lake.

“I’m always excited to come back to Cranbrook,” Ward Fera said, “and see the progress with the kids here and touch base with Roberta Rodgers and others who’ve helped birth this club, wish the kids well, and get out rowing. My hands have grown soft in the last month.”

As well as an Olympic rower, Ward Fera was a medallist at the world champions (1978 and 1979). She’s a member of the Cranbrook Olympic rowing pantheon that includes Archie MacKinnon (1956, Melbourne) and Ben Rutledge (2004, Athens; 2008, Beijing).

She always gets a charge when the Olympiad comes around, but this year has a special significance. One of her crewmates for many years, Tricia Smith, is now President of the Canadian Olympic Committee.

“She’s a fine, fine gal — she rowed in four Olympics, she’s an Olympic silver medallist, and a dear friend,” Ward Fera said. “And I’ve already circled my calendar for 4 a.m., August 12, and 5 a.m. Pacific time Saturday. August 13 to cheer on Canadian crews in the finals. I’m really excited, wish I could be there.”

The Rockies Rowing Club, which rows out at Jim Smith Lake, continues to grow. It’s comprised of more than a dozen rowers, two of whom took up the sport last year and are looking to compete in the 2018 B.C. Summer Games.

Rowing Canada has lent the club two singles boats and a quad (four-person boat) for the club’s fleet. Coach Roberta Rodgers says these are touring boats, designed for long distance and stability in the water, thus good for training and for lessons.

Another quad hads been purchased from the Vernon Rowing Club, with the help of a generous donation from the Regional Distict of East Kootenay.

As well as competitive training, the Rockies Rowing Club offers a package of rowing lessons for recreation, for youth and adults. Contact Roberta Rodgers at rdmrodgers@cyberlink.bc.ca

“Rowing can be started at any time in life — it’s a late entry sport, really,” Ward Fera said. “No one has to compete, they can just row for pleasure. And there’s a special bond with people who row, with rowing crews.”

Opening ceremonies for the Rio Olympics are set for Friday, August 5. Rowing events, in which Canada is always a medal contender, begin Saturday, August 6.