4 March 2016

Sailing their way to Rio

Three students working for spot on national Olympic team


Mew competes in a windsurfing event.
Mew competes in a windsurfing event.
Surrette and ten Hove hit the water on their sailboat.
Surrette and ten Hove hit the water on their sailboat.

While many will spend their summer watching the 2016 Olympics on TV, three Queen’s students have the chance to represent their country in the Rio de Janeiro Games in Brazil this summer.

This January, Olivia Mew (link is external), Allie Surrette and Ali ten Hove found out they qualified for the Canadian sailing team and have been working hard to get a spot in Rio ever since.

Though this was a proud moment for Mew, Phe ’19, just days before her qualifying competition, she had sustained a concussion.

“I was completely ecstatic, but also very relieved at the same time,” Mew told The Journal over email. “I overcame a lot of obstacles to even compete in my Olympic trials … Although most doctors had told me it would be a stretch to attend [the] event, I never gave up, putting 100 per cent effort into my recovery.”

To be an Olympic sailor, athletes first qualify for positions on Team Canada, and then continue to compete for a nomination from Sail Canada to send them to the Olympics. Mew is looking to compete as an RS:X windsurfer, while Surrette and ten Hove are hoping to compete as a team in the 470 event.

Both categories require intense training and focus over the next few months.

For Surrette and ten Hove, both Sci ’19, training has involved a recent trip to Argentina and upcoming events in Spain, France and England. With sailors for fathers, the training has become a family affair for the two athletes, and they’ll be using ten Hove’s father’s boat in competition.

When asked about qualifying for the Olympics, Surrette was realistic and spoke about the upcoming weeks on their way to Rio.

“We’re working really hard and have a really good relationship with Sail Canada, but we’re trying to just make the criteria and show that we want to be sent [to Rio].”

Surrette (left) and ten Hove hit the water on their sailboat. Supplied by Allie Surrette.

Although the Olympics is within their grasp at such early point in their careers, the athletes are pushing to represent Canada more than once.

Surrette and Mew both said that while Rio will be an amazing opportunity to experience the Olympics and challenge their sailing skills, the 2020 Olympics is when they hope to medal.

“I have a few coaches and people that I know that have gone [to the Olympics] … and they’ve loved the experience,” Surrette said.

Despite the stressful upcoming weeks, the athletes are happy that they get to do what they’re passionate about.

Mew, who started windsurfing only five years ago, loves the challenge of the sport.

“[I’m drawn to] every aspect of windsurfing — the physical, mental, technical and tactical is so challenging and complex,” she wrote. “I love the challenge of the sport and that there is always something to improve … being on the water all day is so peaceful, not matter where you go in the world.”