DCVI grad Cody Bailey training for U23 Rowing World Championships in Rotterdam

Cody Bailey, 21, of St. Marys, will be in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, in August as a member of Rowing Canada’s U23 team at this year’s world championships.

Cody Bailey poses with the Cogswell Medal he won last year at the 2015 Cogswell/Pelham Halifax Harbour Championship.
Cody Bailey poses with the Cogswell Medal he won last year at the 2015 Cogswell/Pelham Halifax Harbour Championship.

By Dan Rankin

After excelling at time trials June 17 on Fanshawe Lake in London, St. Marys DCVI grad Cody Bailey learned that he and his doubles sculls partner, Trevor Jones of Peterborough, had made it onto Rowing Canada’s U23 National Team, and would be heading to the Netherlands later this summer to compete at the 2016 World Rowing U23 World Championships in Rotterdam.

“It went reasonably well,” Bailey, 21, told the Independent. “We always like to be a little faster… but it went pretty good.”

Since learning the good news, Bailey and Jones have been hard at work training with their coach on the Trent Canal in Peterborough almost every single day. A typical day starts at 7:00 am, and they’ll be on the water for their first rowing session by 7:30 am, he said. “In training, we do two to three sessions on the water daily,” he said. “Usually just two, and then core and weights.”

But, he notes, this is a somewhat less gruelling schedule than when he was aspiring to make it onto the National Team as a member of the Mic Mac Amateur Aquatic Club in Nova Scotia, in the “Row to Podium” program. “When I was in a club program, I was up at about 4:40 am to get on the water for 5:30 am,” he said.

It’s still quite the commitment though; around 20 hours of rowing a week, and between four and six hours each day.

One day recently, they made over six trips along the canal’s 6 km water course, he said. “We did about 41 km on the water on Friday last week,” he said. “That took all day. That was a long time. You can kill some pretty good kilometres that way.”

Though St. Marys has ready access to the Thames, rowing has never been a natural choice for many young athletes, and it wasn’t one for Bailey either, who played basketball and volleyball in high school.

He first heard about the Row to Podium program about three years ago when they set up in DCVI’s small gym, looking to recruit promising young athletes. Bailey admits he’d never even been in a row boat prior to some prodding by his volleyball coach Ian Moore, who encouraged him to try it out.

“So I did, and here I am now,” he said. “It’s crazy.”

Last year he not only placed third in singles sculls at the Royal Canadian Henley in St. Catharines, he also won the Cogswell Medal and a cash prize at the 2015 Cogswell/Pelham Halifax Harbour Championship.

Though his doubles partner Trevor is only 18, this is his fifth year rowing, Bailey said. “He rowed all through high school,” he said, noting that, at 6′ 8″, they’re the same height. “He’s quick and he’s good.”

While a lot of the Team Canada U23 rowers are out west in Victoria for their world championship training, Bailey and Jones have been instructed to remain in Peterborough where they can receive more individualized training for the next few weeks, Bailey said. “A month out from Rotterdam, we will probably go to Victoria and start training with the rest of the group,” he said.

In the comparatively short time Bailey has been involved with the sport, he’s gotten to know the names of a lot of luminary Canadian Olympian rowers, while also having a chance to meet and see in action some of the athletes Rowing Canada is sending to Rio this summer. “They’re on another level of fitness and focus,” he said. “It takes a long time to get fit enough to compete at the Olympic Games. I still have a ways to go there yet. Those guys really know how to work hard.”

At the last two U23 World Championships, Canada brought some competitive teams, bringing home a gold and two bronze medals from the competition in Italy in 2014, and then winning a gold, silver and bronze in Plovdiv, Bulgaria in 2015

After that tournament, Rowing Canada High Performance Director Peter Cookson said, “The Under 23 program continues to improve under the direction of Peter Shakespear. The U23 program is a fundamental development path for our future Olympians, so to see 12 of our athletes on the podium in Plovdiv bodes well for the future.”

This year’s World Championships in Rotterdam run Aug. 21-28. Though Bailey knows he will be racing against other young athletes from around the world who may have been rowing longer than him, he is hopeful and determined to use the experience as a stepping stone to reaching his ultimate goal: representing Canada at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

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