Sarah Black earns silver medal on her birthday as part of memorable year

Having turned 24, Ottawa-based rower Sarah Black helped the Canadian women’s four to a silver at the World Rowing Championships in Chungiu, Korea. The tallest woman in international rowing, she competed with Christine Roper, Natalie Mastracci and Cristy Nurse, finishing four seconds over the gold-medal winning US squad.

It is part of a 2013 that has seen Black emerge as one of the world’s most competitive rowers. At the World Cup in Lucerne, she grabbed the gold in the women’s fours, complemented by a bronze in eights. With 30,000 spectators watching in Korea, she was in the bow seat of the boat, which meant she had to steer the boat.

Although she is a member of the Ottawa Rowing Club, she also pulls double duty with the University of Western Ontario’s rowing team. Of note, she was heavily recruited for an NCAA scholarship. Of note, schools such as Cornell and Columbia (both in New York State) were showing interest.

With Western in London, the headquarters of the Canadian national women’s rowing team, it was the ideal fit. Engaged there in her studies for the last six years, a standard day includes rowing 30 kilometers and a vigorous weight training workout. Her demanding training regimen with teammates involves ergonomics, team workouts, group cross-training, tank training and weights. She graduated from Western in June 2013 with a degree in psychology and religious studies.

Remarkably, this world class competitor only started rowing at the tender age of 16 in 2005. She was considered a natural the first time she took the reins of a boat, although her slender yet sexy 6’5” frame is a significant factor in her world class success.

In her freshman year of high school, she was pushed into basketball due to her height. Despite competing in the Ontario provincial championship tournament (OFSAA), it was not of interest to her. At the convincing of friend Clare Funstun, a new passion would be discovered in rowing. By her senior year, she finished in fourth place against nationally ranked high school scullers at an event in St. Catharines, Ontario.

The most unique aspect of her game is the versatility. She has won the eight-person event at the 2011 World Under-23 championships in Amsterdam. During that same year, she experienced some other milestones. At the Ontario University Athletics level, victory was earned in the fours and eights, while national titles were claimed at the CIS pairs and eights. For her accomplishments at the 2011 competition in Amsterdam, a boat was named in her honor at the Ottawa Rowing Club.

While Black’s goal is to earn a gold medal at the 2016 Rio Summer Games (she was a spare for London 2012), her ability to juggle such a busy schedule makes her a world champion in the hearts and minds of many fans. Ambitious, driven and goal-oriented, she is one to watch in the future. The most remarkable aspect of Black’s career is her commitment to Canada. Despite offers from US schools, she stayed loyal to the country that invested their time and effort into her. Although she was not one of the favorites for the 2012 Summer Games team, she never lost her enthusiasm. Displaying perseverance and dedication, her patience may bring with it golden reward in Rio.

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