Sickness dogs Finley at Pan Ams
Matt Finley’s first appearance at the Pan Am Games was sick.
The St. Catharines resident, who turns 25 Aug. 29, had a strong singles heat at the Albufera Medio Mundo venue in Huacho, Peru, and felt he was a strong contender for a bronze medal.
But on the night before and the morning of his semifinal race, the former Brock University rower fell victim to a neuro-virus that was sculling its way though the rowing population.
“I don’t know who brought it in but it was hopping around and one of the coaches got it before me,” he said.
It started with uncomfortable stomach cramps that prevented him from sleeping and progressed to extreme heart burn and then vomiting.
“In the semifinal, I could tell right off the bat that I didn’t have the endurance to do what I wanted to do,” the nine-time Henley champion said.
He was in the middle of the pack for the first 500 metres and then he was trying to stay close to the third and final qualifier at 1,250 metres before falling back. Finley ran out of gas in the last 100 metres and ended up fifth.
“I think I could have been in the cards for third in the (A) final, but it would have been a tough race,” said the former Ontario University Athletics and Canadian University Rower of the Year.
Finley was philosophical in defeat.
“There’s up and downs and it was tough, but you can’t do anything about it.”
He rebounded to win the B final and placed seventh overall after having two days to recover.
“It would have been awesome to be in the A final and see if I could crack the podium , but it was a great experience because it is the first time I had raced in the single internationally.”
Finley represented Canada at three under-23 world championships and won a gold medal in the quad in 2015.
He was disappointed for himself but more so for his parents, Jim and Julia, who had flown to Peru to watch him compete.
“I know my mom gets really emotional with that stuff and I was telling the people before the race not to tell them that I was sick.”
Despite being ill, Finley loved representing Canada.
“It is always sweet to put the maple leafs on the blades and race.”
Finley competed in the multi-sport Canada Games, but it was his first time representing the red and white at an international multi-sport event. Unfortunately, he didn’t get the entire experience because the rowing venue was three hours from Lima and rowers were prohibited from going to the athletes village because organizers didn’t want to expose other athletes to the neuro-virus.
‘It would have been cool to go see the closing ceremonies, but it is what it is.”
Finley graduated from Brock in late 2017 and headed to the national training centre in Victoria, B.C. in early 2018.
He spent a year in British Columbia before returning to St. Catharines this past January.
“I was fully supported by my parents, I ran a little GoFundMe thing to help me out a little bit and a lot of people helped me there,” he said. “It was very stressful and the process for carding is always in the back of everyone’s mind. We need that little bit of money to at least support ourselves.”
Finley never did get that little bit of extra cash.
“I was so close (for carding),” he said. “By the erg standard, I was two seconds off.”
He was chosen to go to the Pan Am Games following a small boat selection regatta held at the beginning of June in Victoria, B.C. He finished second in the single to local rower Dan de Groot but got to go to Peru when DeGrott declined the opportunity.
“I was able to fill in his shoes and go do my part,” he said.
Finley is planning to return to Victoria in late September for the national rowing championships.
“Hopefully I do well there and show them I am up to speed and get put in (a boat),” he said. “I want to compete.”
The goal is to represent Canada at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, but 2024 is also a possibility. Getting a chance to be an Olympian in the single would be his ultimate goal.
“I thoroughly enjoyed being in the single and I would love to push towards 2024 in the single if I am fast enough.”
He has loved training on Henley Island.
“It is stressful out west because there are so many guys wanting to get in certain boats, but it has been a blast here,” he said. “I love the facility here and Brock and Peter (Brock coach Somerwil) have helped me so much.”
Finley also loves his sport.
“I am hooked,” he said. “I have done it for so long and I haven’t lost the passion for it.”
That passion is fuelled by the improvements he is making.
“It’s just seeing the growth every year,” he said. “If I am getting better, why stop now.”