Eight years after giving rowing a try, Langley’s Lisa Roman is readying to compete on the world’s biggest stage.
Roman was one of 26 athletes nominated by the Canadian Olympic Committee and Rowing Canada to represent Team Canada at the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games in August.
“I don’t even know (how it feels),” she admitted.
“(But) it is all starting to hit home all at once, quickly.”
“It is amazing. I am super excited to go out there and represent Canada. I am really speechless.”
Roman, who turns 27 in September, spoke to the Times by phone from London, Ont. on Wednesday where she has been based the last four years as part of the Canadian national team program.
The final roster was announced on Tuesday (June 28) morning in Toronto.
The past few weeks have been filled with uncertainty as the coaching staff assesses all of the athletes, who works well together and in what events, and tried to find the right combinations.
There are 19 women who are part of the senior national team program and 13 of them were nominated for the Olympics while another three are alternates.
Roman will compete in the women’s eight competition.
“The last couple of weeks have been pretty hard. We have been really trying to drill to find the right lineup,” she said.
“All of us have just been heads down, training.”
The team has been competing at various World Cup events in Europe.
And getting selected for the Olympics is a culmination of four years of hard work and sacrifice.
Poppy grad gave sport a chance on a whim
Roman — who graduated from D.W. Poppy in 2007 — got into the sport after attending a learn to row session at the University of the Fraser Valley the following year.
Prior to that, she had been a competitive figure skater.
And while she had success on the ice, Roman aspired for higher levels.
“I like to be at the top and go as far as I can go,” she said.
“I think I reached my peak in skating and wasn’t going to get to a level that I wanted.”
She quickly took to rowing, earning MVP honours in her second year with UFV and a scholarship to Washington State University.
Roman rowed for the Cougars and graduated in 2012 with a degree in psychology and double minor in sports management and human development.
But rather than enter the workforce, Roman opted to pursue her athletic aspirations, spending the past four years based out of London with the Canadian women’s national team program.
“I just guided myself on all the paths to get to the national team and once you get on the national team, the Olympics become that ultimate goal,” she said.
Plenty of sacrifices to get to this point
Earning a spot to compete in Rio makes all the sacrifices of the past four years worth it.
She put her career on hold while she trains six days — sometimes seven — days a week, three times a day throughout the year. It meant being based out of London for most of the year, with winters spent training in Florida.
Her only visits home are usually at Christmas and then in September.
Roman admitted she cannot imagine putting in so much time and effort to not make the final cut.
“You work so hard, for so long,” she said.
“My coach put me to the challenge and I kept rising to the challenge. That is what I needed to do.”
Making it even more impressive is the fact Roman is smaller than the typical female rower. Traditionally, rowers are in the six-foot range while Roman is closer to five-foot-10.
Former coach not surprised at Roman's success
According to her coach back at UFV, it is her former pupil’s competitive spirit which sets her apart as an athlete.
“She isn’t the biggest woman on the Canadian team – she’s worked for all the strength and boat movement she has,” said Liz Chisholm.
“It’s just so exciting to see all her hard work and time pay off,” Chisholm marveled. “It’s been her dream to compete at the Olympics.
“For me as a coach, to have somebody like Lisa end up at this pinnacle of sport, it’s exciting to see a young person realize their dream. You work with so many athletes, and you don’t know which ones will embrace it and be willing to work that hard.”
Kevin Light Rowing Canada photo
For the past four years, Langley’s Lisa Roman has called London, Ont. home as she has spent six — and sometimes seven — days a week training at Fanshawe Lake with the Canadian women’s national rowing team program.
Games begin Aug. 5
The Olympics run Aug. 5 to 21 with the rowing events in the first week.
That means Roman will miss the opening ceremonies, but once her events are complete, she will stick around for the second week, moving into the Olympic village and taking in the experience. She will also be on hand for the closing ceremonies.
Joining her in Rio will be her parents, Mike and Elizabeth — who actually booked their tickets a few months ago without knowing if their daughter would make it. Also attending will be Roman’s twin older brothers, Bryan and Blair, her sister-in-law Nikki, and her mom’s best friend, Sherry Thompson, whom Roman calls her second mom.