The next Canadian Olympians can come from anywhere across the country, even little Westholme.
Multi-sport athlete Jayda Lauzon has been identified as a Future Olympian following testing conducted through the RBC Training Ground program.
Lauzon, currently in Grade 10 at Mill Bay’s Frances Kelsey Secondary, was born in St. Albert, Alberta and attended Queen of Angels School in Duncan in Grades 2 through 9. She just turned 16 on Jan. 16, and has a varied background in sports such as soccer, volleyball, track and field, and even equestrian.
“Soccer’s probably my main sport, I’ve done it for eight years since I turned seven,” Lauzon said.
But rowing is where her eventual claim to fame could lie based on some impressive testing results during an open search for new Olympic talent in a local qualifier at the University of Victoria last March.
Athletes between 14 and 25 are invited to the RBC Training Ground sessions to test their speed, power, strength and endurance in front of officials from national sport organizations like rugby, rowing and cycling. The program then links undiscovered or up-and-coming athletes with a sport that could allow them to reach the Olympic podium one day.
Lauzon’s mom Heather was told about the program and Jayda signed up.
“I researched it and I thought it looked really cool,” she said.
Lauzon was put through her paces in sprint and jumping tests, and the deadlift, among others.
“Going there, I was so nervous,” she recalled. “For track meets, I’m usually nervous. For this, I was over the roof, so jittery. I knew I had to give it my all.”
Those watching Lauzon’s performance didn’t see anything but an immensely talented athlete. Her stature at six-feet tall was impressive on its own, but she also tested with a so-called wing span that was greater than her height.
Lauzon impressed Rowing Canada so much with the elite and developmental benchmarks she reached that the organization put her on the short list of athletes from across the country to pursue.
Before going to Richmond last April for a regional final where sports officials wanted to get another look at Lauzon after her previous impressive results, she was told by Rowing Canada development coordinator Chuck McDiarmid that she could go far in the sport.
“I was blown away by that,” Lauzon conceded. “I was open to any sport, I generally enjoy all.”
Rugby Canada and Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton had also expressed the most interest in Lauzon.
“Rowing just seemed like the sport I’d enjoy the most and succeed the most out of the three,” she explained. “They all reached out to me. They asked me to come to tryouts.”
Mom Heather is actually breathing a sigh of relief Jayda didn’t choose bobsleigh. She just couldn’t come to grips with the inherent dangers of that sport.
Jayda has since earned funding to train as a future Olympian and started to make inroads in rowing. She’s been training with former Olympian Laryssa Biesenthal at Brentwood College twice a week.
“We’re trying to get my technique down since I started from scratch,” noted Lauzon. “My coach was really excited since I had no bad habits.”
She also recently attended a weekend rowing workshop at Victoria’s Elk Lake and has begun to branch into double and quad from initial single training.
“I really enjoy it,” said Lauzon. “All sports you can push yourself at. This one, you can feel your muscles, and growing, and how you’ve improved.”
Based on her age, Lauzon is being targeted to make 2028 her Olympic year.
Her funding support will help to pay for travel, attending international competitions, coaching and nutrition while she balances being a student and part of Rowing Canada’s national development program. RBC Training Ground has awarded $1.3 million to support 87 identified athletes.
Lauzon will also continue to play soccer for Brian Johnston’s Cowichan U17 Gold girls team, volleyball at Frances Kelsey and attend track and field meets with the CeeVacs Jaguars for now to maintain her athletic diversity.
“They want her to still be involved in those teams and those groups,” Heather pointed out.
But rowing is clearly where Jayda will be one to watch. She can draw parallels with Biesenthal, who actually was a late-bloomer in the sport after her teenage years.
“My coach has already booked us rooms for nationals for rowing,” Jayda indicated. “She believes and tells me all the time I can go to (the) Olympics.
“It’s exciting and nerve-racking to think it could happen.”