Storey charts new competitive course on the water

From land to water, Quinn Storey has taken his own route in the sports evolutionary game.

The Burnaby teen may have found his footing as a rower.

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Storey looks to continue a family tradition as he begins his university stage of studies and training as part of the University of B.C. rowing program, after years of being a competitive cyclist.

The change from one sport to the other has gone incredibly smooth for the 17-year-old.

“It’s been pretty quick process and I’m pretty pleased with how quickly I’ve learned,” he said of the transition, which began in earnest just over a year ago, after going through Rowing Canada’s Row to Podium program.

It’s an off-shoot of the RBC Training Ground program, a partnership with the Canadian Olympic Committee, that began in 2016 to help uncover and develop the next wave of Olympic athletes.

It invites athletes from a variety of disciplines and tests their skills and abilities, helping steer those interested in pursuing a national team dream in the right direction. For Storey, that was rowing and the Row to Podium.

“I made it through to the final, where they pick the top-100 in metro Vancouver to go on to a final event. They selected me and I went through all the testing, and that’s where I was picked by Chuck McDiarmid (Rowing Canada’s development co-ordinator) to go to Burnaby Lake,” he said.

The switch from two wheels to a sweep – a boat for the two, four or eight-team – has had its challenges.

“I’ve had a few swims in Burnaby Lake, and I can certainly say it’s a great lake for rowing. It’s not for swimming,” he said with a laugh.

But as a limber, six-foot-five athlete, the action of rowing has actually gone swimmingly. His first competition, a year ago last April, resulted in the kind of confirmation that drives an athlete harder.

“I won the junior varsity men’s 19-under 1,000m and that was a big vote of confidence, coming as the first time I tested myself against other rowers. We pulled through and it was a great learning experience,” he noted.

Wanting to reach the pinnacle taps into a family trait, of sorts. His father Brian competed for Canada at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics – in sailing.

Although a different discipline, the son said the fact that he’s chasing his own goal in the water has brought a smile to the father’s face.

“(My dad) is very happy that I’ve taken up rowing, that I’m in the water. I tried (sailing) when I was younger but quickly learned it wasn’t for me,” he recalled. “With rowing there is that connection of the water, and he’s enjoying helping me.”

And while cycling and rowing involve a lot of different actions, the aerobic component is completely transferable. His lean, long frame is perhaps more ideally suited for long races on the water, than hunched over on the bike.

But his passion for cycling isn’t going to waste.

“I still love cycling but I’m doing it more as cross-training right now. I’ll climb on the bike and do it to keep up my aerobic conditioning, keep my mind fresh. I still love it and every time I go for a ride I feel great.”

Considered still relatively new to the sport, Storey aims to bridge any gaps with his enthusiasm and determination. This weekend he's competing in St. Catharines, Ont. at the Henley Regatta, where the nation's elite rowers hit the water. It's the kind of exposure that Storey gets pumped for.

There’s a lot about the sport he’s still discovering, but enjoying every step of the way.

“(Rowing) is such a beautiful sport. In (the eight-man boat) everyone has to work in unison, and you see it from putting the boat in the water to the racing. You need to be in sync. Rowing in a quad or eight is where you trust everybody, you need strong chemistry and know that everyone is there for you and you are for them,” he said.

“For now, I want to keep my learning curve steep. Being relatively new to the sport I’m gaining new information, new experiences all the time.”.

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