For the better part of a decade, Will Dean has rowed for Canada all around the world in international competitions.
But never in his home country.
That will change for the 28-year-old Kelowna native this weekend when he pulls on the Maple Leaf at the Pan American Games in Toronto.
Dean will be rowing for Canada in the men’s quad and men’s eights events.
“I have to say this is a pretty big privilege to be representing Canada, racing for the first time in my country,” said the 6-foot-5, 220-pound Dean. “I think emotionally it’s going to be a pretty cool thing and means a lot to me. To be part of the opening ceremonies and everything else that goes along with it I expect will be a great experience.”
Dean and the men’s quad team heads into the Pan Ams in good form.
Dean and teammates Matt Buie, Rob Gibson and Julien Bahain won a bronze medal last month at World Cup 2 in Varese, Italy and should have a good chance at medaling again in Toronto.
The Pan Am Games will also help the Canadian crew prepare for the World Championships in early September in Aiguebelette, France. Canada needs a top-eight finish to qualify for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Brazil.
“We haven’t tapered down our training, we’re putting all our efforts into being ready for the world championships,” said Dean. “We’re hoping to get that Olympic spot at worlds so we don’t have the pressure of trying to get it later. We feel like a top-eight is well within our grasp.”
Dean competed at his first Olympic Games in 2012 in London with the Canadian men’s eights crew which finished in ninth overall.
With a decade of rowing already under his belt and plenty of work and commitment required to remain on top of his game, Dean isn’t certain how much longer he’ll row beyond the 2016 season.
But for now, he’s enjoying his sport of choice as much as he ever has.
“Some parts of it are a grind for sure,” Dean said, “But all in all, I’m having more fan than I’ve ever had. I’m going faster than ever have before and I’m with a really great group of guys. I’m excited to see what we can do.”
Dean will row for Canada on Sunday at the Pan American Games in the preliminary heats in both the men’s quads and the men’s eights.