Olympic rowers seek approval for indoor training ‘tent’ at Camosun

Canada's men’s Olympic rowing team, which has trained in Saanich since 1987, is looking for even more local training space to prepare for London next year and Rio in 2016.

Canada’s men’s Olympic rowing team, which has trained in Saanich since 1987, is looking for even more local training space to prepare for London next year and Rio in 2016.

On Monday night Saanich council is expected to discuss the prospect of installing a “temporary” tent structure at Camosun College’s Interurban campus to allow the rowers to train indoors for the next six years.

“These guys are training eight, nine hours a day. They need to be able to come off the water (at Elk Lake), get to (the Pacific Institute of Sport Excellence) into their indoor training space and get on their ergs right away,” said Donna Atkinson, executive director of Rowing Canada Aviron. Ergs, short for ergometers, are off-water rowing machines that help the athletes get as good, if not better, training benefits.

“Especially on the days they can’t get on the water, weather-wise, they don’t lose that training if they have a dedicated space.”

Calling the 232-square-metre temporary building a tent is a bit of a misnomer. Though it’ll be constructed like a tent – an aluminum-frame structure covered by fabric – it’ll be strong and sturdy, and include such amenities as solid doors, windows and a ventilation system.

“The only thing we have to prepare for is its foundation and floor slab. They can then assemble the thing in a matter of hours or days,” said architect Tony James, prior to Monday’s meeting.

Robert Bettauer, CEO of PISE, says the cost of the tent is relatively minimal. The fact it only needs to stay up until 2017 is because they hope to have expansion plans for the institute, which would include permanent designated space for the rowers.

“We’re proud to provide the highest level of support, particularly for our Olympic athletes gearing up for London. To do that, we need to find the dedicated space they need to do their training,” he said.

The rowers were formerly housed at the Vancouver Island Tech Park, but Atkinson said the space was small and wasn’t ventilated well enough for the athletes, who “work up quite a sweat.” They’ve since been booking gymnasium space at PISE, but have to share time with other classes and bookings.

Olympic gold-medal winning rower Adam Kreek said the importance of a dedicated indoor rowing space is crucial in Canada’s success on the world stage.

“The coach can actually come up and manipulate the bodies of ht athletes and physically show them the way they’re supposed to move. You get instantaneous feedback from coach to athletes, which helps the athletes  develop their skills to a level of finer precision,” he said.

kslavin@saanichnews.com

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