From blue and gold to red and white

Olivia Nashmi, left, and Erin Evite, right, at a campus pool during a training session. Courtesy Karen Chan

Two Ryerson University students are hoping to make it onto Canada’s national dragon boat team. Olivia Nashmi and Erin Evite both paddle with Ryerson’s dragon boat club and are currently training to make it to the selection camp for Team Canada in May.

Nashmi is a third-year media production student who has been paddling with the school since her first year. Evite is a recent graduate from the university’s biomedical engineering program and is currently studying at Ryerson’s Chang School of Continuing Education. She has been paddling for four years. Despite their experience, both students say they want to try out for Team Canada to become better paddlers.

“I wanted to challenge myself and see if I could make it,” says Evite. “I know there are stronger paddlers than I am, and seeing them in action is motivating me to do better.”

Nick Fan is the supervisor and head coach for the Ryerson dragon boat club. He says the club only recently began to help students who are trying to reach Team Canada. Fan says that in 2015 the coaches decided to “incorporate Team Canada as an option to the club.”

“For the people who want to take it to the next level, we can help them along the way, provide them the necessary coaching and resources they need,” says Fan. The club previously sent one other paddler to Team Canada — Cassie Peralta, a 2014 graduate, who was part of the under-24 national team in 2015.

Nashmi and Evite have been training for Team Canada since last August. Their summer training consisted of paddling on outrigger canoes, single-seat boats that replicate dragon boats. They trained on the water until it got too cold to paddle outside. The pair now train on ergometer rowing machines indoors, while also doing regular gym workouts and weight training. Aside from training, the two still attend practices for the club, and they acknowledge that training for nationals has been difficult on them. Evite says that the two have been training so much that their bodies are “breaking down.”

“Both of us are on the verge of injury. We had to start [physiotherapy]. It’s been a lot, but it’ll be worth it — even if we don’t make the team, it’ll be worth it,” says Nashmi.

Team Canada consists of three boat categories, an open men’s boat, a women’s boat, and a mixed boat. Including substitutes, the national team would be looking for approximately 70 paddlers. The two are currently focusing on securing a spot on the mixed team. If they make it to Team Canada, the pair will compete in France this July for the World Nations Championships.

Nashmi and Evite have attended two testing sessions since August. These sessions are where Dragon Boat Canada determines who to invite to the selection camp in May. The two are expecting to receive invitations for the selection camp by the end of March. Once Outer Harbour and Woodbine Beach open up again, the pair will be back out on the water training for the camp.

“Now that we’re close to the end, you can see the light,” says Nashmi with a smile. According to Fan, both Nashmi and Evite have a good chance of making it onto Team Canada.

“Based on their stats, they beat a lot of our male paddlers,” says Fan. “They’re open-minded, they’re willing to learn, they’re very coachable. I think their chances are very high.”

The Ryerson dragon boat club currently has 90 members. The club consists of both current Ryerson students and some alumni paddlers, with practices being held on Saturdays during the off-season.

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