What a week it’s been for Will Dean.
The 28-year-old from Kelowna posted the two biggest wins of his career, earning a pair of gold medals for Canada in men’s rowing at the Pan American Games in Toronto.
Dean and the Canadians showed the way Tuesday in the quad sculls, then followed up on Wednesday with another gold medal effort in the men’s eight.
Dean said the experience of racing in his home country in a major international event for the first time is the unquestionable highlight of his career to date.
“I had never had the opportunity to race in front of a Canadian crowd before and it was an unbelievable thrill,” said Dean. “Everybody talks about competing in your country and for the home crowd and I can’t overstate what that means to me.
“To win two gold medals…it was a pretty nice couple of days, beyond what I expected.
“Just the feeling of gratitude I had when crossing the finish line, I’m so thankful.”
The two most significant medals of his life come a decade after Dean began his rowing career at the University of California-Berkley.
Dean said it’s been a long and rewarding journey that he’s thrilled to be sharing with his hometown.
“I’m super thankful for the support of all the people back in Kelowna, I’ve had a ton of messages,” said Dean, a graduate of KSS. “I’m proud to be from there and represent such a great community. I’ve had huge support throughout my career from family and friends, all the people around me have contributed to this and I’m grateful for that.”
Dean and his men’s quad teammates will next focus on qualifying for a spot at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.
To do that, the Canadian crew will be aiming for a top-eight finish at the world championships this September in France.
“We have to qualify at worlds and we’ll be ready for the challenge,” Dean said. “We’re hoping to build on what we’ve done, dig in and focus on getting to the Olympics.”