Payton’s place is atop podium
Payton Gauthier concluded his Niagara 2022 Canada Summer Games experience with a pair of rowing gold medals around his neck.
After winning gold in the eight Saturday, the 18-year-old Niagara Falls native teamed with Niko Schramm, Michael Ciepiela and Aidan Hembruff to capture first place in the men’s four Sunday.
“Canada Games was a lot of fun. We got back from worlds and went straight into training camp,” the Niagara Falls Rowing Club member said. “It was nice because most of the people on the Canada Games team were at worlds so we were already really familiar with each other. The few individuals that weren’t, meshed super quickly with us and it made it super easy to get into combos and get some great results.”
His high point of the week was the eight final on Saturday.
“It was one of those races that was executed perfectly and we were on auto pilot from the start to the finish,” he said. “It was composed, internal and when we needed to go, we went and we had a gold medal to show for it.”
The gold in the four was a great way for Gauthier to cap his week.
“I don’t know if I was expecting two golds but now that I have them it is such an amazing experience,” he said. “I have already been to two worlds but I still look at this as a big event. This is almost the Olympics for Canada with all the sports and it such a cool event to be a part of. To be able to represent your province and compete against all the provinces was fantastic.”
A number of the athletes he was competing against had been teammates at worlds.
“It was cool being teammates with those guys and two weeks later I am competing against them,” Gauthier said. “It was super rewarding to see all the hard work I put in and my teammates put in and be able to battle it out against each other.”
The Saint Michael graduate’s summer was the result of a lot of hard work.
“Since NRCs (national rowing championships), I have been really grinding and trying to get better as an athlete,” he said. “I am always looking forward to events like this. It fuels you and gives you motivation to train harder.”
That hard work was necessary.
“This was my first year in U23 and the transition from U19 to U23 was a big jump in the level of competition and atmosphere. It is a faster age group and I didn’t know what to expect going out west,” he said. “It was a long, hard process and there were definitely points where I was doubting myself. But I stayed positive, pushed through and I was able to secure a spot in the eight.”
His doubts were understandable.
“There are so many other U23 athletes in Canada who are at such a high level. When you have to race against them it is intimidating,” Gauthier said. “When I was at Speed Orders, one of the first regattas I was at I had to go up against some Olympians. The first time racing against them was super intimidating. Having that experience and getting through it was awesome.”
It was a thrill to compete at the under-23 worlds in Varese, Italy.
“Going to the worlds was such an amazing experience. Now having a sense and knowing what to expect at the U23s, definitely makes me want to trial again for the upcoming years.”
He learned a lot in Italy.
“It is fast but it is so exciting. It’s all adrenaline and it just makes you want to get better.”
The men’s eight placed ninth overall in Varese.
“We were in the B final and we were not disappointed with it but we are only losing one guy from our eight this year so we are ready to come back next year, work even harder, make the A final and hopefully medal.”
This fall, Gauthier is off to Syracuse to be a NCAA Division 1 scholarship rower and study kinesiology
“From all the official visits that I went on, Syracuse had the most homey feeling,” he said. “They are an up-and-coming program. At the IRAs (Intercollegiate Rowing Association championships) this year, they got fifth. They are a quick crew and there’s a lot of good, faster crews coming up. I am looking forward to it.”
His next step as a rower is more of the same.
“It is similar to what I did at NRCs, just progress and get faster. It is a sport where you want to get faster and the only way to do it is putting in more work,” he said. “Sometimes it is not the most fun, but it is days like today where it is worth it.”
Gauthier credited his coaches for his excellent season.
“This summer, Scott Anderson who coached the men’s eight, was a huge part of my success in sweeping. Prior to going out west, I had very minimal sweeping experience and Scott helped me develop into the sweeper I am today,” he said. “Grant Boyd, our coach for the men’s eight and the men’s four, helped us put together these crews two weeks ago. He was big part of us getting these golds.”