Gabby Smith, who was in the finals in her rowing event at the Tokyo Olympics, is more than an athlete. She taught local residents how to swim and row, and looked out for children as a lifeguard at the beach. She also served lunch at Buzz, worked in the warehouse at Canadian Pond, and lifted weights at the local gym. Gabby is a beloved and respected member of the community. 

Creating the opportunity for athletes to become part of a community is an important reason why Aviron Quebec moved its National Rowing Centre from Montreal to Brome Lake. As we have seen during this Olympiad, the effort, the sacrifice and the doubt can easily pile up and overwhelm if an athlete feels isolated. Being able to draw on the love and support of a community can be a source of comfort and solace. This is what Brome Lake gave back to Gabby. 

Gabby’s personal impact on rowing on Brome Lake endures. This summer, over 80 children rowed from Douglass Beach. Most rowed just for fun, but five of them are in the Aviron Knowlton’s Development Program hoping to gain a spot in the National Rowing Centre, run by coach Gavin McKay. One rower, Sasha Roslin, aged 15, is also training as a coach. Fifty adults are rowing this year as well. The success of Aviron Quebec’s program and its partnership with Aviron Knowlton Rowing has created a unique opportunity for the residents of the town to explore and enjoy the sport. 

Where does Gabby go now? In early September she plans to return to Brome Lake and participate in a celebration of her Olympic achievement. In the fall, she moves to the UK to study at Regent’s Park College at Oxford with a chance of a place in the women’s boat in the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race. In 2024, she hopes to return to Olympic competition in Paris. We wish her all the very best.