It’s almost a daily tradition. Canadian rowers Lindsay Jennerich and Patricia Obee say good morning and then talk weight.
“That’s exactly it,” Jennerich said with a laugh. “She usually wakes up before me, I hear her in the bathroom. I hear her tapping the scale.
“She comes out (and says) ‘I’m this.’ It’s almost the first thing we say to each other.”
As competitors in the lightweight women’s pair, the two Olympic rowers have to average 125 pounds in the boat, with neither allowed to weigh more than 130.
The official weigh-in is two hours to one hour before racing. Miss that window and you don’t race.
“It’s a very, very strict rule and it’s to the hundredth of a gram,” said Jennerich. “We’re making sure we’ve got the lightest unis (uniforms on). There’s nothing, no elastics in our hair, no watches on. Like you’re trying to get it to the hundredth.”
The good news is that the rowers burn up a lot of calories in training.
“That’s true. Throughout the winter, I’m conscious (about eating). I’m not strict with myself but I’m always conscious. So that keeps me at a pretty acceptable weight over the winter,” said Jennerich, a native of Victoria who turns 30 on July 31. “Then I just have to start being more conscientious (after) to make sure I’m getting of that last few pounds.”
It’s one more thing Jennerich and Obee have to think about.
“It’s definitely an added stress to the whole event, because if you’re sitting close (to the weight) the night before, it’s all about the weight of substance that goes inside your body at that point,” said Jennerich, who looks like a little sister to her amazon teammates in the eight.
“So if I’m sitting half a kilo overweight the night before, I’m not going to be drinking four kilos worth of water and that’s what a lot of athletes would like to do, they’d like to have a litre of water before bed. So that’s just something we can’t do. It does add that element but I try to think of it as a positive thing — it keeps you in a routine as well. It’s a very routine day.
“You wake up, you weigh in, you get yourself at weight, you have your breakfast, you weigh in two hours before. It’s sort of like a forced schedule.”
Peter Cookson, Rowing Canada’s high performance director, says the lightweights know what they have to do.
“They’re all seasoned, they all know what they have to do, they all make sure that they’re as strong as they can be at the weight they need to be at.”
But Jennerich has had to battle more than weight en route to the Olympics.
In the past, she has been at loggerheads with Rowing Canada over her training base. And she has shared the boat with both Obee, a 20-year-old from Victoria, and veteran Tracy Cameron of Shubenacadie, N.S.
Cameron, now 37, won gold in the lightweight quadruple sculls at the 2005 world championships and Olympic bronze in 2008 in the pair with Melanie Kok.
In 2010, Jennerich and Cameron teamed up to win the world championship.
Last year they took Lucerne, a big regatta ahead of the worlds. But then Cameron developed a stress fracture of a rib and Jennerich joined forces with Obee, the team spare, to win silver at the worlds championships.
Restored to health, Cameron won a row-off with Obee to see who would join Jennerich this year.
But Jennerich and Cameron struggled when they got back in the boat, finishing eighth in May at a key pre-Olympic regatta in Lucerne. Cameron retired in early June, saying rowing was no longer fun.
“I am following my heart and moving forward,” Cameron said in a statement at the time. “This is a very difficult decision — I believe in the Olympic values and have lived my life with excellence, respect and friendship at the forefront of everything that I do.
“With those values as my guide, I knew that I could no longer stay in the double.”
The Rowing Canada release that announced the retirement also said “the chemistry in the double ...has been lacking in this final buildup to the Olympics.”
Cameron declined further comment when asked by The Canadian Press.
Jennerich prefers to look forward rather than back, but it’s perhaps no surprise that she accidentally calls her partner Tracy rather than Patricia during a pre-Games interview.
Still, she sees the lightweight women’s turmoil as a glass as half-full.
“It was pretty exciting at the end of it all because it showed that out of the three top women in Canada, we had the ability to be on the podium with at least two combinations out of the three of us.”
Jennerich did almost every sport “at a very non-competitive level throughout high school and middle school.” And then she started rowing in high school “for something new.”
“And I fell in love with it right away. And since then I haven’t played or done anything else.”
She started as a heavyweight “and I learned very quickly that if I wanted to go further than university rowing, I was going to have to lose the weight to be a lightweight because heavyweight women’s rowing just wasn’t my niche. I wasn’t strong enough or tall enough.”
The competition will be fierce in London.
Two-time world champion Greece has been in the top two in almost every regatta since 2009. Britain, boosted by home-field advantage, is a threat. As is China, which has its record-setting lightweight woman back in the boat.
“But we have her coach now so hopefully it will balance out in our favour,” Jennerich said of former Chinese coach Kenny Wu.
The lightweights also work with veteran coach Mike Spracklen.
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