Athlete of the Month - May 2018
Canadian women’s eight powerhouse, Christine Roper, started life in Jamaica but now lives in a much chillier part of the world as she continues her stellar rowing career. The 27-year-old tells us about the change and her quest for Olympic gold in Tokyo.
World Rowing: When and why did you take up rowing?
Christine Roper: I began rowing when I was 14 at Kent School (a boarding school in the United States). I grew up with my main sport being swimming and while I was at Kent I needed a sport to take up during the spring semester, the swimming off season. I joined the rowing team and the rest is history. I continued to row and swim and loved doing both! But it quickly became clear that I had more potential to compete at a high level in rowing. Once I started university, rowing was the only sport I competed in.
WR: What was rowing in Jamaica like compared with Canada?
CR: Rowing is beginning to develop in Jamaica now (which is think is wonderful) but when I lived there, rowing didn’t have much of a presence. Before I left for school I did not even know what rowing was. I think rowing in Canada is very special and exciting. It is one of the country’s most successful Olympic sports and there are a lot of very inspiring crews that have come out of Canada. There are rowing clubs all over the country and I feel a lot of pride in representing them all at this level.
WR: How did you find moving from Jamaica to Canada in general?
CR: I had to get used to a lot of new things such as, driving on the other side of the road, the food, the culture, the types of people, the big cities - and especially the weather. It was all a bit overwhelming and difficult at first and the hardest part will always be living so far away from my parents (who are still in Jamaica). Now that I have been in Canada for around eight years, I really have fallen in love with it.
WR: You’ve been racing the four again at the top level. How are you finding it compared with the eight?
CR: I really enjoy racing the four. It is my favourite boat when everything clicks and its going fast. The dynamic in a four is a bit more intimate and I feel a lot more personal ownership in doing my part. This is a very exciting time to be racing in the four as the boat class develops and becomes more competitive before Tokyo 2020. I am really enjoying the challenge of figuring out how to end up on the podium in both events!
WR: What is your role in your eight – both on and off the water?
CR: On the water, I try to use my height and strength to bring length and power to the boats I race. My role is to be the engine and row as well as I can to not disrupt the power I produce. I try to add a bit of motivation and excitement to the group. When things are going well I can’t help but get pumped up and give a little “yeah!” I have built up a bit of experience racing the eight internationally so, off the water, I think my role is to try to lead and guide us in the right direction.
WR: Have you had any difficult times in your career so far?
CR: I am lucky in that I have had a pretty smooth rowing career so far. I have struggled with little injuries and have had highs and lows just like any athlete does at this level. The hardest thing I have had to go through so far, however, was picking myself back up after the 2016 Olympics. My teammates and I had a good run from 2013 to 2015 but we fell short in the Olympic year in Lucerne (World Cup) and especially in Rio. I spent more time than I should have going over everything that might have gone wrong and I felt disappointed in myself and guilty for letting a lot of people down. I questioned for a long time whether it was worth it for me to keep rowing. My biggest fear (which I think will never go away) was that I would fall short at the Olympics again. Luckily, I have a great support system and friends who helped me through the months after Rio. I know there is a lot of talent in the Canadian women this quadrennial and, personally, I know that I still have a lot of speed to find. I decided to make a push for 2020 because the fire was still there and I just want to win and race and have fun doing it.
WR: What is it about the USA eight that has made them so hard to knock off the top of the podium?
CR: In my opinion, any female sweeper would be silly to not always have an eye out for USA. They have earned the respect of the rest of the world with how hard they work, how they race and especially their 10-year gold medal streak in the eight. But nobody is unbeatable and Canada, New Zealand and Romania all proved this at the 2017 World Rowing Championships.
WR: What is your goal for 2018?
CR: That's easy – GOLD at the World Rowing Championships.
WR: What is your longterm goal?
CR: I want to end up in the middle of the Olympic podium in 2020. I want to push myself and never get complacent or comfortable and have fun doing it.
WR: How do you relax when you’re not rowing?
CR: Mainly, I like to surround myself with friends and family. I enjoy being outside and just keeping it simple.
WR: Which sportspeople do you most admire?
CR: I usually like the underdog. I really admire someone who can motivate themselves to hit the limits even when everyone thinks they will lose. I think that takes a lot of courage.