Meet our neigh­bour­hood’s best hope for an Olympic medal — plus three more of T.O.’s top Olympians

North York Post - - Front page - JEN­NIFER MARTINS — Bron­wen Keyes-Be­van

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.


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