Whistler's Cassidy Deane had never even thought of rowing when she headed off to Ontario for university.
But now, the Western University sport management master's student has a Canadian University Rowing Championship gold medal to show for her work in the sport.
Deane helped the Western women's eights team to victory in Victoria on Nov. 2, capping an undefeated season for the squad.
"We started training at the end of August for this event, with the selection of our crew. We've been training every day, sometimes twice a day, up until now to perform at our peak for this event," she said.
Deane transferred from Queen's University after completing her undergraduate degree in kinesiology there in the spring. She said that of the athletes in the boat, three rowers and the coxswain were the only returnees.
"When you're in a new crew, it can be difficult to find common ground between different techniques because different athletes have come from different programs and we haven't rowed together in the past," she said. "The first little bit was working together to find that meeting point in the middle so we're all on the same page. From there, it was kind of getting down to the fine tuning of everything and focusing on the little details.
"In a rowing race, there's 240 strokes in a two-kilometre race, so every little detail can make a difference," she added. "It's trying to maximize as much speed as we can per stroke to go as fast as we can to the finish line."
In addition to gold, Deane earned a bronze on Nov. 3, teaming with Elisa Bolinger to take third in the open women's pairs contest.
With Bolinger being a relatively young rower, the two worked hard to mesh and find a way to hit the podium.
"We worked extremely hard in the pair this year. We overcame quite a few challenges and we were both very proud of our placement," Deane said.
Deane said both the Queen's and Western programs were strong, and she appreciated growing within both.
"Each program was a very different experience but I thoroughly enjoyed both of them," she said. "I am very happy to have raced for Western this year and been able to represent Western as my team this year."
Because Deane only began racing in the second of her four years at Queen's, she still has one year of U Sports eligibility remaining.
"Hopefully we can build from this year and progress even further with some of our small-boat results as well," she said.
In addition to excelling at the university level, Deane also had the opportunity to race internationally last year in the International University Sport Federation (FISU) Games in Shanghai, helping Canada to silver in women's eights.
Deane said she tried to just take in the experience and not get overwhelmed by the talent present while she was over there.
"It was such a cool experience and it made me want to work harder," she said. "I've seen the level of athletic ability that some of the athletes overseas have and it made me want to work even harder to try to achieve that and be the best athlete I could be."
Though she didn't row growing up in Whistler, living in an athletic mountain town helped Deane attain a level of fitness that made it possible for her to ascend the ranks as quickly as she did. Deane grew up swimming, figure skating and ski racing competitively before heading east.
"From a young age, I was in every sport possible," she said. "I was exposed to so many different opportunities as a young child, and I think that really made me interested in learning how to row when I was in second year.
"I love to be active. I love to do things, and it was a new challenge for me.
"For now, I'm just focused on the short-term, continuing on the university circuit and we'll see where it goes from there," she said.