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Renowned Cranbrook rower passes knowledge on to next generation

Cranbrook rowing great Joy Ward Fera (centre) came out to Jim Smith Lake on Wednesday, July 30, to impart some technique tips to members of the Cranbrook Rowing Club. Left to right: Danielle Macdonald, Joy Ward Fera, Kristen Wilson. - Barry Coulter photo
Cranbrook rowing great Joy Ward Fera (centre) came out to Jim Smith Lake on Wednesday, July 30, to impart some technique tips to members of the Cranbrook Rowing Club. Left to right: Danielle Macdonald, Joy Ward Fera, Kristen Wilson.
— image credit: Barry Coulter photo

Cranbrook has a tradition  of rowing excellence, with several Cranbrookians making a notable splash in the sport — including Archie MacKinnon (Olympic Gold Medallist, 1956), Joy Ward (back to back bronze at World Championships, 1977-78) and Ben Rutledge (Gold Medallist, 2008 Summer Olympics).

One of those great rowers Joy Ward Fera, was in Cranbrook this week, passing on some of that tradition and imparting some rowing lore to the next generations of rowers.

Ward-Fera (neè Ward) is considered one of the best all around female athlete Cranbrook has ever produced, as a skier, a hockey player, and most notably as a rower.

A member of Canada's Rowing Team at the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal, Joy recorded a seventh-place finish in the Coxed Four. During the course of her career, she registered back-to-back bronze medal performances in the Eight at the 1977 and 1978 World Championships and helped her team to a fifth-place finish during the 1979 Worlds. Following her retirement after the Moscow Olympic Boycott in 1980, Joy continued to be involved in the Olympic Movement, participating in the Olympic Academy of Canada in Halifax in 1987 and the International Olympic Academy in Greece in 1988.

On Wednesday morning, Joy was out at Jim Smith Lake, with Cranbrook Rowing Club coach Roberta Rodgers and some club members.

"Joy gave them some good information on technique," Rodgers said afterwards. "Time in water, time out of water, layback (body position at the end of a stroke)... She also imparted her personal story, and how rowing can be competitive but also a life-long activity."

Ward-Fera currently resides in the Lower Mainland, but frequently visits and vacations near her old home town.

"She comes out (to work with the club) when she can," Rodgers said. "If she has the opportunity she comes by to engage with the club."

The members of the rowing club are about doing other interesting things. Rodgers said Katie Clark is off to the World Bagpiping Championships in Scotland. Zoe Chore, who was recognized with a Coast Capital Savings Athlete Bursary at the BC. Summer Games, is working for the summer. Reili Savage is doing rodeo for the rest of the summer. And Danielle Macdonald is off to Brentwood College in the fall, and will be leaving the rowing club, Rodgers said.

"As a coach, I appreciated the skill set they came to rowing with," Rodgers said. "Because they had a vert short timeline between 'learning to row' and the BC Summer Games. And they were very competitive at the Games."

New member Kristen Wilson came to the rowing club via Joy's sister, Val Ward, a teacher.

"Val has a passion for the Olympics, and passes that enthusiasm on to her students," Rodgers said. "She suggested to Kirsten that rowing might be a good sport for her to take up."

Anyone interested in the Cranbrook Rowing Club, the sport and pastime of rowing, or joining the club as a member, can call Roberta Rodgers at 250-489-0174.

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