Hard training, vegan diet lead to Gray’s rowing success

With only six months of rowing under her belt, Emma Gray of the Manitoba Rowing Association has been identified by Rowing Canada as an athlete with the highest level of potential and ability to make it to the future Olympic podium for Canada.

Gray was identified by Manitoba Rowing Association Head Coach Antony Patterson in the Spring of 2015 while conducting potential athlete testing during the Row To Podium Testing program at Gray’s high school, University of Winnipeg Collegiate.

After achieving the best results in the entire country throughout the tests, Gray was invited to meet with Coach Patterson, Rowing Canada, and Olympians Jeff Powell and Janine Hanson to find out what the Row to Podium program was all about.

Emma, just 16, has competed on the national stage in various sports.

“I played club football when I was quite young,” she said. “I competed at the national level and have a black belt in Taekwondo. Then I played basketball at the high performance provincial level and competed at U-15 nationals. Most recently, before rowing, I trained and competed in Olympic weightlifting, going to two Junior national championships.”

Emma has her sights set on the Junior World Championships in 2016, the Under-23 World Championships in 2017 and, of course, a future on an Olympic podium.

Coach Patterson believes Gray has the drive, talent and tenacity to accomplish everything she is working to achieve – and even more.

“There are so many things I love about rowing,” she said. “The amount of hours and work it requires to be successful, the sense of overwhelming satisfaction when you finish a hard piece, race or workout and to know you couldn’t have taken another hard stroke, or pushed yourself any further.

“The sport of rowing is truly addictive. It requires so much focus and energy that it has the power to make everything else in the world disappear.”

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In Emma’s short time as a rower, she has accomplished some pretty exceptional feats, both for herself and the provincial rowing program. In August of this year she won gold in the Western Canada Summer Games Women’s Singles even, a first for Manitoba. She also placed third in the doubles along with teammate Anne-Marie Goytan.

Interestingly, a decision in the spring of 2013 to go vegan has contributed to her success.

“I did so for ethical and environmental reasons initially but upon researching the lifestyle further, found the overwhelming evidence of both health and athletic benefits,” she said. “I have no secrets so to speak. I eat a whole foods plant based diet with very few processed foods. This has resulted in a very nutrient dense diet that is extremely alkalizing. When you train, your body goes into an acidic state and cannot begin to recover until its pH balance is restored. Meat and dairy are acid forming while all plant foods, especially nutrient dense whole plants, are basic and restore your body’s natural pH quickly, thus promoting rapid recovery.

“The faster and more effectively you recover, the more frequently and intense you can train. The more quality training volume an athlete can accumulate, the better and quicker they’ll improve. The only key to being successful on a plant-based diet is to eat enough. Since plants are naturally higher in water content and lower in caloric density one simply needs to be aware that they will have to eat a greater volume of food to get the same number of calories. This isn’t really a problem though because caloric density can be manipulated through food choice to satisfy your appetite in relation to your energy expenditure.”

Gray’s third place finish at the National Rowing Championships in the junior category and gold in the Women’s Singles at the North West International Rowing Association Championships, clearly demonstrates that Emma Gray has quickly developed into one of the finest young athletes in the country.

— SCOTT TAYLOR and ANDREA KATZ

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Editor of the popular Game On Hockey Magazine and The Point After Football Magazine, editor of Canadian Meat Business Magazine, sports editor of Grassroots News, TV play-by-play voice of the Winnipeg Goldeyes and author of the bestselling book: The Winnipeg Jets: A Celebration of Professional Hockey in Winnipeg. He likes virgin pina coladas, long walks on the beach, puppies and thoroughbred race horses that run according to form.
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