Meet our neighbourhood’s best hope for an Olympic medal — plus three more of T.O.’s top Olympians
North York native Jennifer Martins came to rowing late in life.The Olympian grew up painting, drawing and taking part in plays, and her first foray into sports was in swimming. Throughout her teenage years, Martins swam for North York Aquatic Club (NYAC). It wasn’t until her first week at Western University that Martins’ former NYAC swim partner suggested she try out for the novice rowing team. At age 18, Martins went to tryouts and made the team. She moved up to the varsity level, and in 2011, just three and a half years after starting to row, Martins made the under-23 Canadian national team. She also embarked upon a four-year doctorate of dental surgery at the same time.
“It took a lot of juggling, and sometimes my rowing coach wasn’t happy with me because I was missing practice, and sometimes my teachers weren’t happy with me because I was missing school,” she says. “But I was trying to make both things work at the same time.”Now she is a fully qualified dentist.
In Rio, she will be rowing in the women’s pair event with her partner Nicole Hare. Martins qualified for a spot for Canada in the pair event after a sixth place finish at the 2015 World Rowing Championships in Aiguebelette, France.
In the run-up to the Games, a typical day for the 27-year-old means heading out at the crack of dawn for a row with her team, returning to shore for a second breakfast and then heading out for another row. After some downtime, the team returns for either a weight session, a core session or another row.
Martins grew up around Bathurst and Wilson and still loves the area. She lives, works and trains in London, Ont., but says a move back to North York may be in the cards in the future. For now, she’s focusing on the Olympics. Her family will be in Rio to cheer her on, and Martins says she is thankful for all the people who will be supporting her from home.
“It means a lot to know we have Canadians behind us watching from home,” she says. “I’m super proud to be representing Canada at the Olympics this summer.”
Jennifer Martins made the national rowing team three and a half years after she took up the sport.