KAWARTHA LAKES – Bethany native and competitive rower Jill Moffatt has qualified for the 2021 Olympics in Tokyo.
Currently, the news is still sinking in as it was a surreal moment that she will never forget.
“I woke up to all these messages from my parents, my mom and dad knew before I did,” she laughed. “Canada has a spot in the Olympics, we are training towards Tokyo, because I found out so suddenly, I’m still kind of digesting it, we all woke up and we were all pretty shocked, a bit of mixed emotions, looking forward to racing and feeling like we proved ourselves that way.”
Moffatt was born and raised in the small town of Bethany, and while she was always an athletic and competitive student, she never imagined that life would guide her down a path that would eventually land her a spot on the Olympic rowing team.
But she attributes her team spirit and her ability to work well with others to the small community that she grew up in and the coaches that inspired her to do the best she could, enabling her to reach the top.
“I got used to that sense of community and that helped me in my sporting career, that helped me later, looking back on it, I really learned how to work with everybody,” she said. “In a small community we were surrounded by the same people all the time so we really got used to working with everybody and taking pride in what we were doing as a smaller group.”
Moffatt graduated from St. Thomas Aquinas Secondary School in Lindsay before heading off to Western University.
“It was apparent who could work well with others, that is something that I got from being from a small town,” she said. “It’s funny growing up, there was no one from the area to look to, it feels really cool and I hope it goes to show, if you want that pathway, you can, but I didn’t think I was in a small town until I got out of it.”
While in University, she completed her undergrad in health sciences with a minor in political science, from there, Moffatt went on to receive her masters in health information science and graduated in 2019.
And while she obtained an impressive education, she also found time to join the University’s novice rowing team which lead to a life-long passion.
“Luckily I made it, it made the school feel smaller, the team was very close knit and there was a huge sense of community and culture and I really liked that being from a small town,” she said. “It made me feel like I had my place within such a big school.”
Moffatt’s parents are proud of her accomplishments and are also still digesting the big news.
“We are shocked and overjoyed, and words can hardly describe it really,” said Moffatt’s mom, Gayle. “She has worked very hard, she has always been very determined, good at taking direction, she didn’t want to give them any opportunity to not put her in that boat.”
Moffatt noted that she is naturally a very competitive person, but the thought of the Olympics was not a realistic goal in her mind.
According to Moffatt, the Canadian lightweight double boat is set to go to Tokyo, but Rowing Canada has the final say on who will be paddling to the finish line at the Olympics.
“We were slated into it, we are training towards Tokyo, but the whole Canadian Olympic committee has to approve it,” she said. “We are training in it right now, towards Tokyo.”
The Canadian Olympic Committee will make the final announcement in June and the Tokyo Olympics are slated for July 23 to August 8.
Moffatt currently resides in British Columbia, full time where she is training six days a week. The training centre is based out of Victoria on Vancouver Island and Elk Lake has become a familiar place for Moffatt as she is often rowing for two and a half hours straight when the sun rises.
The Canadian team always trains for six days a week for approximately 26 hours, from Monday to Saturday. Every day, Elk Lake welcomes the duo, Moffatt and rowing partner, Jennifer Casson, as they board their boats at 7 a.m. for a minimum of 90 minutes.
When they’re not rowing down the chilly waters in British Columbia, the team endures weight training, cross training, running, biking and of course, more rowing.
And while the Olympic race is only seven minutes long, Moffatt noted that training is all about increasing your V02 and aerobic ability.
“The longer rows really help the aerobic system, helping your lungs and heart,” she said.
For other aspiring athletes, Moffatt noted the importance in finding someone that believes in you. While on the track team in high school, coach Louis O’Neill sparked a passion in her.
“I was lucky I had a track team, he was so believing in anyone and I wasn’t thinking of ever doing something like this, my advice, go to your gym teacher, people in community that love sports and are willing to help if you ask,” she said.
According to Moffatt, the high school track coach had strict training sessions and a passion that enabled the group to achieve bigger and better.
“We were a small school, but we had a really strong cross country and track team, it was really fun, we were a high achieving group, everyone just loved running,” she said. “We were very lucky to have him, he showed me what it meant to train in a more serious way, even if I wasn’t thinking of doing anything bigger than high school with it.”
According to Moffatt’s dad, Greg, Moffatt’s high school coach is one of the reasons she has made it this far.
“She was energetic to say the least and so focused on her cross country and after school sporting events,” said Greg. “She had an excellent gym teacher, I think a lot of credit should go to him, he made them so focused on the team, he was second to none, and had a huge influence on her life.”
According to Gayle, they have always encouraged their daughter to stick to commitments, be happy in whatever it was that she was passionate about, to be a good citizen and to be a well-rounded individual.
Living in Bethany, Gayle worked as a nurse but was able to job share, enabling her to spend ample time with her family.
“I was able to devote more attention to activities and be there for them and I supported them in what they were doing,” she said. “We have a great community; school system and the teachers were always great for putting out their time.”
Gayle noted that Moffatt was a lively kid that always had a plan. For her sixteenth birthday she asked for a white board for her room to schedule her sporting events.
“She was always a happy kid, always wanted to keep busy even when she was very little,” said Gayle. “Skating, swimming, soccer, you name it, she did it all, she always liked to be involved and be around a lot of people.”
Greg noted that the community support has been amazing and how much they appreciate the love shown for their daughter.
“There has been a lot of support within our community, I think everyone is very proud of her,” her said.
Congratulations Jill and good luck!