Glebe Paddler and Gold Medal Winner Sets His Sights on Puerto Rico Pan Am Championships
By Ian Miller
Drew Hodges has had a phenomenal season. The Glebe resident has won gold at the Canada Games, captured six medals at the National Championships and is representing Canada this month at the Pan American Championships that take place October 18 to 20 in Puerto Rico. “Drew is one of the hardest workers in our club,” said Rideau Canoe Club coach, Ian Mortimer, a fellow Glebe resident and former national team member. “He has earned every result with dedication and patient effort.”
Hodges, who celebrates his 20th birthday this month, kicked off his successful season by winning Ontario team trials which earned him the spot to race “C1,” or single canoe, at the Canada Games in Sherbrooke, Québec. He showed that he deserved that honour by taking gold in the C1 5,000-metre and silver in the C1 1,000-metre. Hodges was also part of the four-man canoe and captured silver in the C4 1,000-metre and bronze in the C4 200-metre, for a total of four medals at the Canada Games.
“It sort of felt like a mini-Olympic Games,” Hodges said of the Canada Games. He has aspirations to compete at the World Championships and Olympic Games one day. Right now, however, he is focused on achieving personal goals as he pursues his bigger dreams. He says competing at this level takes a lot of determination and a pure love of the sport. “I like that you get as much as you put into it. There is a team aspect but you try to push your limits every day and try to better yourself every practice.”
Hodges trains twice a day at the Rideau Canoe Club on Hogs Back Road near Mooney’s Bay. He credits his success in the longer races to an intense training schedule that includes lots of time on the water in the fall, with some practices exceeding 20 kilometres of paddling. “Around half way when your arms are Jell-O and everything is starting to tense up and you’ve just got to say in your mind ‘keep pushing, just keep taking good strokes’ – it’s certainly a battle that we face almost every practice and every race.”
Winter training consists of weight workouts and lots of aerobic crosstraining, like running, swimming and Hodges’ personal favourite: cross-country skiing in Gatineau Park. Hodges heads to Florida with his teammates each year for a few weeks of hard training in February and March to get ready for the summer competition season.
It’s a demanding training schedule, and he also studies business at Carleton University. Being organized and motivated is the name of the game. Hodges says having school and training in close proximity to his home in the Glebe makes for a good set-up. “I sort of have a line I follow. I go to school, to the club and back home, so it’s pretty convenient for me.”
Two weeks after the Ontario team trials, Hodges returned to the same course in Welland for national team trials and surprised himself by winning the B final of the men’s C1 1,000-metre at the senior level. “It was sort of unexpected. I’m a little excited and I’m a little nervous at the same time,” Hodges said of his first chance to race internationally. “I’d like to do the best I can. Obviously whenever you represent Canada you want to put your best foot forward. There’ll be some big names there but I just have to focus on my own race and see what I can put together.”
CANOEING ON THE RIDEAU
Hodges stumbled upon the sport while in need of a summer pastime as a young teen. His mom taught Ian Mortimer and his brother Angus and they suggested he come try paddling. “I’ve been hooked ever since,” laughs Hodges. “I’ve always known that it was here but I didn’t really think it was as accessible as it is until I came down and tried it.” Looking back he’s pretty happy to have discovered the canoe club practically in his back yard.
“It’s really nice being super-close to my house and it’s a beautiful spot to paddle. Rideau has some of the best water in Canada to paddle on,” states Hodges. “I keep telling everyone it’s the best way to spend a summer even if you’re not looking to race competitively. Just being on the water in the summer, especially in the middle of the city, it feels like you’re in cottage country. It’s pretty cool.”
In addition to writing about sports as an occupation, Ian Miller is also an avid canoeist.