Come Aug. 4, Tracy Cameron will settle in front of a television and cheer loudly and proudly for former teammates. She wants them to win an Olympic medal in women’s rowing; she wants Canada to celebrate the hard work and effort that goes into being a world-class athlete.
Will she regret not being there in London, competing in the lightweight doubles event? No, said Cameron. She made the right call. It was time for her to retire.
It’s been a week since Cameron, a 37-year-old, much-decorated veteran of the rowing scene, surprised many by announcing she was leaving the sport just seven weeks before the opening ceremonies of the 2012 Summer Olympics. Cameron had earned her place in the doubles along with Lindsay Jennerich, but after some serious soul searching the Nova Scotia native decided it was best to retire so that Patricia Obee could take her place.
It was a call Cameron has yet to second guess.
“I found myself in a place where it wasn’t fun any more. I wasn’t happy,” said Cameron, who was in Calgary to visit family on Friday before returning to her home base in Victoria. “I got into sports because I enjoyed it; I loved it. When that wasn’t there, I said to myself, ‘I guess that chapter is closed.’”
The last year had been especially difficult for Cameron, who suffered a stress fracture in one of her ribs. That sidelined her during the 2011 world rowing championships in Slovenia, where Jennerich and Obee teamed up and won a silver medal. That also clinched a 2012 Olympic berth and heightened the internal competition.
To determine who would row with Jennerich at last month’s World Cup event in Switzerland, Cameron and Obee had to race against one another, winner takes the seat. Cameron won. Unfortunately, when Cameron and Jennerich competed together in Switzerland the best they could do was eighth.
Peter Cookson, Rowing Canada’s high performance director, said Cameron and Jennerich had lost their chemistry. Cameron said after Switzerland she went for a row one morning in Victoria and came back convinced it was time to get out.
“At this stage in my career, I’ve accomplished most of the things I wanted to do. I won two worlds, an Olympic medal,” said Cameron, who earned a bronze in 2008 with doubles partner Melanie Kok. “Coming back and doing another Olympics would be like the icing on the cake … I just couldn’t do it. Life’s too short to be unhappy.”
That doesn’t mean Cameron is done with rowing. Once back in Victoria, her plans are to load up her car and racing shell and head across the country, stopping at various rowing clubs to interact with other athletes. She’s considering being a guest coach and hopes to inspire others.
As for Aug. 4 and the finals of the women’s lightweight doubles, Cameron insisted she will be “like everyone else. I’ll be behind Team Canada, cheering and screaming and wanting them to win.”