By Michael Boriero
Nearly two months after making an inspired run to the women’s double sculls final at this year’s Tokyo Olympic Games, Gabrielle Smith took on another challenge last Friday, as she faced a barrage of questions from students at Knowlton Academy.
“It’s always fun to talk to kids. It was really nice to see a couple of friendly faces in the crowd of kids that I’ve taught swimming lessons to […] It was really cool to see how excited they were about sports, and about rowing, and athletics,” Smith said.
She regaled the children with stories of her past, detailing her switch from volleyball to rowing, admitting she once considered quitting the sport, and describing a painful rib injury, which she obtained during a training session. The students sat awestruck throughout the entire event.
It was in many ways her grand return to the place where she began her Olympic journey. Smith trained at the Aviron Knowlton Rowing Club for three years. She told The Record that while she was thousands of kilometres away, she always felt the support from the local community.
“I think just all of the nice messages I got from people from Knowlton, and rowers across the country, it’s just so grounding to hear from people and hear their well-wishes and know that even though they are not there with you, they are still pulling for you,” said Smith.
This was her first Olympic Games, and, pandemic aside, it was an eye-opening experience. There was a sense of isolation, she explained, and it often felt like Smith and her teammate, Jessica Sevick, were in an intense bubble, closed off to the outside world.
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