Jansen to join Queen’s rowing
Should I stay or should I go?
That was the dilemma facing 18-year-old Welland resident Gillian Jansen as she contemplated where she would pursue her post-secondary academic and rowing career.
The Grade 12B student at Notre Dame had applied to Brock, Queen’s, McMaster and the University of Toronto but early on she knew there were only two destinations in play.
“My biggest choice to make was whether I wanted to go away or stay home and the choice was between Brock or Queen’s.”
She was familiar with Queen’s because she trained at the Kingston university as part of Team Ontario in 2018.
“The coach for it was from Queen’s and we ended up training out of Queen’s for two weekends. I got introduced to Queen’s and we stayed in contact ever since then.”
And there was Brock.
“Brock is obviously close to home and I have met the coaches over the years.”
Jansen thought long and hard before ultimately choosing Queens, which has offered her both athletic and academic scholarship dollars.
“It was a lot of sleepless nights trying to decide and I think the biggest factor it came down to was that I am an independent person so I wanted to branch out that way even more and move away from home.”
The former silver medalist in the junior women’s double with Nicole Hare at the Canadian Secondary Schools Rowing Association championships took an extra year of high school to figure out her options.
“I initially stayed back for 12B for a few reasons. I was pretty good mark-wise but I wasn’t crazy ready to go away for university. I am very indecisive and I needed more time to decide. I also wanted to pick some more courses, take a shot at winning some bigger regattas like Stotesbury and I had plans to really work on the single.”
All those plans were dashed by the COVID-19 pandemic. She was able to train on the water for a few months in 2020, starting in June and she also took up cycling to stay in shape. There was more training in singles and doubles in the fall before things were shut down once again. Right now, she is doing Zoom call training and erg workouts.
“It’s difficult to do everything on your own because this team is very team oriented. Trying to get back in the swing of things has definitely been hard on all of us.”
Jansen can’t wait to get started at Queen’s, where she plans to study life sciences.
“I have been in high school for five years so I am looking forward to something new and a totally different atmosphere.”
Her goals are straightforward.
“I want to see how far I can go, expand on what I have done so far and take things to the next level,” she said. “COVID obviously put a damper on what allowed to do. There have been no regattas, there hasn’t been a lot of racing or training in bigger boats.”
She is a lightweight rower with heavyweight aspirations.
“I am going to see where I end up and I am not going to put a lot of pressure on myself weight wise. My coaches never did, so I am going to try not to do it,” Jansen said. “I want to bring my erg numbers down to make the heavyweight team but I am not too worried either way.”
She feels the greatest strides she has made in the last few seasons are in the mental side of the sport.
“My biggest hindrance is my mental strength, more so on the erg than on the water, and a single really pushes your mental abilities as well as your physical abilities because you are all alone out there,” she said. “My biggest improvement has been able to find that comfort level to work alone.”
Jansen was introduced to rowing through Brock University’s PALS (Positive Active Living for Students) program in Grade 6. Following that experience, she went through a Notre Dame learn to row program in the summer with a bunch of her friends. She ended up sticking with Notre Dame for her entire career.
“There was a group of 30 of us who signed up that summer and out of my age group I was the only person who stayed,” she said. “It is a very demanding sport so there was a lot of people who weren’t ready for the workload of six or seven days a week.”
Prior to rowing, she had tried competitive skipping, swimming and horseback riding.
“Rowing was different and I found it interesting.”
Jansen knows she wouldn’t be where she is today without the support of her coaches. She singled out the efforts of Dave Pelette, Rob Henson, Terry Andrews and Rhiannon Zahorchak.
“Dave, my first coach, taught me the basics and really got me to love the sport. Rob conjured race plans out of thin air and spent many early mornings putting in the miles on the water. Terry came in and was tough as nails but only wanted to get the best from us. He pushed us to our limits and really showed us things from a different perspective.
“Rhiannon has been a teammate, mentor, coach and friend. She took me and another junior under her wing when we were selected to race in the Head of the Charles. For the past year, she has taken up the mantle as coach and has inspired me to be the leader to the juniors as she was to me.”
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