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Island gold-medalist Wastenays returns home to help Olympic program recruit

Cross country skier-turned-rower won women’s eights gold at Tokyo Olympics
Avalon Wasteneys (far right, back row) celebrates with her gold medalists Lisa Roman, Kasia Gruchalla-Wesierski, Christine Roper, Andrea Proske, Susanne Grainger, Madison Mailey, Sydney Payne and Kristen Kit of Canada during the medal ceremony for the women’s rowing eight final lat the 2020 Summer Olympics, Friday, July 30, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

Since its inception in 2016, Royal Bank of Canada (RBC)’s Training Ground program has provided a platform for athletes to realize their potential.

Athletes such as Campbell River native and Olympic rowing gold medalist Avalon Wasteneys, who came to rowing from a very different sport altogether.

Wasteneys says that while her heart was in cross country skiing, rowing has sewn deep within her family roots.

“I had been rowing for a year before RBC training ground. Rowing is something that’s part of my family legacy,” said Westenays, who is in San Diego currently training with the Canadian National Rowing Team.

“The program can be really amazing in the ways it can identify athletes and tell them about a sport that they might have not possibly considered.”

RBC Training Ground made its way to Victoria Feb. 11, as part of the west coast leg of the 2023 national tour scouting future Olympic athletes.

For Wasteneys, the program provided her with what all athletes desire to continue their passion, from a monetary standpoint as well as support in other avenues, such as coaching.

“To know I had a community to help me in every step of the way. It helped out a lot,” says Wasteneys. “I was at a very critical stage of my career.

“I was kind of on the cusp, having to shuffle between a pair of jobs and University studies. It really developed me as both an athlete and student.”

It worked out for Wasteneys, who won gold with the women’s eights in rowing at last year’s Tokyo summer Olympics.

“The word that always jumps out when I talk about it is surreal,” says Wasteneys. “It felt like a massive relief. All the hours and hours I put in was worth it.

“Doing it for Canada, and the communities and our families. It was amazing.”

Olympic hopefuls are given various feats to test their speed, strength, power and endurance in a variety of drills.

Judged by national sport governing bodies and the Canadian Paralympic Sport Institute, the athletes are put up against high performance benchmarks, with around 30 athletes receiving funding and support to achieve their dreams of Olympic glory.

The first alumni of the program, which included Westeneys, won four medals at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.

For more information on the program visit

About the Author: Edward Hitchins

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