Brenda Bowskill had a busy summer.
A sailor since she was six years old, Bowskill made her Olympic debut in Rio this August, finishing as high as ninth in two women’s laser radial (dinghy) preliminary races.
A student at Ryerson’s Daphne Cockwell School of Nursing, Bowskill, 24, is now back on campus for another academic year. The Ryersonian spoke with Bowskill about her first Olympic experience and the challenges of balancing school life with sailing.
Ryersonian: Congratulations on your first Olympics, Brenda. What will you remember most about the experience?
Brenda Bowskill: What I’ll probably remember most about it is the four to six years leading up to it, actually. Yes, the Olympics were so amazing, I had so much fun and had a great experience … but those four to six years of hard work are really what I will take away.
R: What was an average day like for you in Rio?
BB: Our venue was an hour away, which meant commuting an hour each day to get to my events. With sailing, you need to do a lot of course prep the day of, so we would plan to be on the water an hour before race time, which was at 1 p.m. I actually have a routine in the mornings where I drink my coffee and do a little bit of yoga, a little bit of stretching to get the body moving. Sometimes when I wake up I feel like an 80-year-old. So that is a big part of my competition routine, and it was in Rio.
R: Is it hard balancing school life with training?
BB: Absolutely. I mean, with sailing, you have to travel a ton. You just can’t train in Toronto between November and April because of the weather. So the travel is the hardest thing, particularly with nursing. You have to be in Toronto to do your clinical placement—which is why I decided to take the last year of school off actually, because I knew it would be unrealistic to be able to do both well. It is very challenging, but you do the best you can.
R: So I have to ask: what was the water like in Rio?
BB: Well, the media obviously blew it out of proportion. I mean there was a lot of garbage—more than in Toronto for sure—but that’s because they don’t really have a proper garbage disposal system in place. They have a lot of poverty and not a lot of government support to clean it up, so it all just washes into the water. So there was a lot of weird things I saw out there, like doors and tires and things you wouldn’t normally see, but it didn’t stop my sailing or affect my racing at all.
R: When would you say you are more nervous: before a midterm or before a race?
BB: No, see I don’t get nervous for tests. All my nursing friends are always like, “I’m so nervous” and I’m like, “Honestly, you know what you know and you’re not going to know any more.” Traditionally though, the first race of every regatta I get really bad butterflies before the race, but then it’s out of my system and I’m never nervous again. I think I can handle pressure fairly well.