Allison Jakeway (right) trains with fellow Canadian Mira Calder in Seattle. (Special to The News)

Allison Jakeway (right) trains with fellow Canadian Mira Calder in Seattle. (Special to The News)

Maple Ridge rower identified for Olympic potential

Jakeway rowing for NCAA team soon after taking up new sport

Life has been moving fast since Maple Ridge’s Allison Jakeway switched sports.

Jakeway turned her attention and training from hockey and popular team sports to one she had never seriously considered – rowing. Her new career started with a learn-to-row camp at the University of the Fraser Valley in December 2021.

Now she’s rowing for the University of Washington in Seattle on a scholarship, and Rowing Canada’s scouts think the 19-year-old phenom has a bright future.

Jakeway has been awarded funding, and an accelerated path to the Olympics, after impressing scouts at RBC Training Ground national final.

The Maple Ridge Secondary grad starred in hockey, lacrosse, and basketball, and her ambition was to play women’s university hockey. But the COVID-19 shutdown of the sports world got in the way of her dream, as it did for many athletes. So she turned to rowing instead.

“It took a global pandemic for me to find it,” said Jakeway.

She was one of more than 1,500 athletes to participate in this year’s RBC Training Ground. It’s an annual cross-country talent search, run in partnership with the Canadian Olympic Committee. Athletes from a range of sports perform speed, strength, power, and endurance tests in front of Olympic talent scouts, to find the sport for which they are most suited.

Jakeway’s testing results in the program impressed Rowing Canada, and earned her one of 100 invitations to the program’s national final. After that event in Ottawa on Oct. 22, she was one of 30 athletes selected for federal athlete funding.

“It was an amazing experience, and I’m really glad it worked out, and that they saw potential in me,” said Jakeway.

It shouldn’t be a big surprise as both of her parents rowed for the University of Victoria and internationally, making their daughter seem like she was genetically engineered for the sport.

“Allison has only been rowing for about a year, but her raw talent is coming through very quickly,” said Laurence Cote of Rowing Canada. “She is 6’1” and her wing span measures 6’4,” and she has an excellent 2k time already. When we tested her she hit all of our Talent ID Targets and more.”

Jakeway’s brief dalliance with the sport at the Abbotsford university led to her being selected for a spot on the UW team – to compete in the NCAA first division, on a team with a great history.

“They took quite a bit of a chance on me,” she said.

Jakeway is paying them back by working hard, and falling in love with the sport.

She’s up at 5 a.m., and routinely pushes herself farther than she would have thought possible, both on the water and in the weight room. She enjoys watching herself get faster.

“I’m so new to it, I’m making progress literally on a day-to-day basis,” she said.

READ ALSO: Maple Ridge wrestlers medal at War on the Floor tournament

Her new teammates are her friends, and she most enjoys being part of an eight-person boat. A training boat might row in front of Seattle’s Space Needle and the cityscape, or out onto scenic Lake Washington, and it feels surreal.

She’s studying to become a teacher and coach.

The competition season begins in the spring, bringing a new set of challenges.

“I’m really excited, because I haven’t had a true racing season yet.”

Her funding through RBC Training Ground will get funnelled toward her first goal – making the Canadian U-23 team. It can be put toward travel, coaching, transportation, equipment, and other needs.

In addition to rowing for UVic, her father Dave Jakeway was on the U-23 Team Canada, and her mother Lisa was with the U-19 national team. So the three of them have something new in common, and the Jakeways watch their daughter chasing a dream they once shared.

“I think it’s pretty cool for them to see me doing it,” said Allison.

RBC Training Ground is a nationwide talent identification and athlete-funding program dedicated to finding and supporting the next generation of Canadian Olympians. Since its inception in 2016, thirteen athletes identified this way have competed at two Olympics, winning seven medals. A new season of RBC Training Ground will be launching in early 2023. Visit RBCTrainingGround.ca for details.

READ ALSO: Canucks’ captain Bo Horvat trying to focus on hockey as trade talk swirls


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