A Letter to Prime Minister Trudeau

June 19, 2017


Dear Prime Minister Trudeau,


My name is Julien Bahain. I am a three time Olympian and Olympic medalist in rowing. I had the honor to represent my father’s country, France, in Beijing and London, and in 2016, the privilege to represent my mother’s country, Canada, in Rio de Janeiro. Before I moved to Canada, I challenged myself and decided to row the Atlantic Ocean. In February 2013, I successfully reached Martinique after 49 days at sea. It was an incredible adventure and probably the hardest I have undertaken.
Last fall, as a Canadian Olympian, I was pleased and honored to meet you in person in Ottawa. As we shook hands in the House of Commons, you said to me: “Canada is proud of you. I am proud of you.” I could not have been prouder on that day. Thank you.

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Dear Rowing, I am going to miss you.

Dear Rowing,

 

Just this once, I am going to write to you personally today. After many tries to write this article, hours spent on some vain versions, erasing and starting over, I finished my previous attempt with “Dear Rowing, I am going to miss you”. Only then, I understood that I had to speak from the heart and address you in person.


Yes, I am going to miss you my dear sport. I will stick around and you will still see me on the water as I still want to take advantage of the best you have to offer. However, I feel it is time for me to fold my racing unis once and for all.

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Indecision

The end of year is coming and four months ago I thought that by today my future would be clear. Well...not even close. Indecision is probably for me the toughest feeling to experience.
In September I started a process of finding what I personally enjoy and love doing outside of the world of rowing. After 17 years of rowing including 14 at high level, it is complicated to simply move on. The transition can be scary and it scares me.

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Fit and not fat

The end of the summer came really fast. It is with my family and my friends that I was able to rest, recharge and forget a bit about Rio. Toulouse was on my itinerary to spend some time with Cédric, to visit friends, to eat some good food in our favorite restaurants. Despite a busy schedule, we managed to row in a double to prepare for French Nationals that we raced for our club Aviron Toulousain. It was great to catch up, to have fun on and off the water. Some might have look at it as a farewell row or the last battle of two veterans.

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Yes, I am human!

On Friday September 23rd, while I was cutting some bread to eat my Foie Gras and sipping a delicious white wine, my mobile phone unexpectedly biped a few times. As an athlete, I fear emails or letters from WADA (World Anti Doping Agency). Even though I am on holidays enjoying France, I still have to submit my whereabouts on a website.

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After Rio

I needed time before writing this post. I needed to go home and spend time with my family and my 3 months-old daughter who grew up way too fast in the past month and a half. I needed to go away and I guess I will have to be able to swallow the frustration of an epic Olympic regatta.
What can I tell you about it?

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A week before the Games

Before the Olympic Games begin, I wanted to “put pen to paper” one last time (sounds better than “type on my keyboard”). We are a week away from our first race and I am ready to go. However, I would like to stop the clock. These last moments are intense. Intense on the water with some speed work to sharpen our blades. But it is also intense in terms of team, human interactions, crew spirit and life experience.

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Nutritional sponsor

Over 17 years of rowing, I can say that I haven’t been injured a lot. I won’t talk about my back problem here but more about the “lack of recovery” type of injury. I have missed very few sessions overall. I strongly believe that it is partly due to my diet. Some people might say that I don’t eat the right way. Fair enough. I am not fancy in terms of gluten, vegan or 100% organic.

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Team Announcement

Toronto. June 28, 2016
It is official. The Canadian Olympic Rowing Team was announced. And I will be part of the trip. We left our everyday routine on the west coast to fly over on the other side of the country. A 36-hour break in a very intense preparation. However, I do think that it is important to appreciate and value those rare moments. “Hay is in the barn” as we say here. Work is done and now it is a matter of how we approach things. Probably a few lessons I have learnt from my past Olympic experiences.

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Tomorrow

I would like to start this post by saying “thanks”. I have never felt that much support in my entire career and I am happy to be sharing this result with you. We can finally dream of Rio together. The four rowers on the picture would not be there without a rock solid support of dozens and dozens of people. So I am not going to start a list that would not be complete, as I would probably forget someone. However, a special shout out is required. Since September, our 4x (quadruple scull) is actually a 5x.

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Varese 2016

We are back in Victoria after 3 weeks of intense racing. It all started with Piediluco, followed by a weekend of racing each other (Canadian crews) in Corgeno before World Cup 1 in Varese. Only 7 boats entered this world cup, however it was the perfect field to assess our current situation. We raced the Lithuanians in Piediluco (6th last year at world Championships) and we had the opportunity to race in Varese the Estonians and the Polish 3rd and 7th in 2015. But the most interesting part was to be able to race some non qualified crews to see where we are at. Russia, Norway and Italy were part of the 7 boats. A good test, 5 weeks before the qualification regatta.

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Piediluco 2016

Here is a quick report of a busy Italian weekend. We arrived in Rome on Tuesday after what looked like a world discovery tour (Victoria => Vancouver => Calgary => Frankfurt => Rome => Terni). The main goal was to get used as quick as possible to the time change (+9h). It is a new experience for me as I was used to race most of the main regattas in Europe. I have always wondered how our Australia and New Zealand fellows manage to deal with the jetlag in such a short period of time before a regatta. The answer is pretty simple:

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A new program for rowing?

I don’t usually write about subjects concerning sport in general. As an athlete I hear the news and even though it might affect us, it is often difficult or inappropriate to talk about it. Whether it be the Zika virus, human rights concerns during the Beijing Games, the budget management for Rio, or the way the Olympic Games are awarded, it can be hard to withhold your opinion as an athlete. I am also acutely aware that voicing a controversial opinion can elicit emotional responses from all sides of an issue. The new changes to the Olympic program might be one of those issues.

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French lesson in a quad

Back from California and Sacramento, its State capital where unfortunately the sun showed up on rare occasions. The positive side of the rain is that California desperately needs it. Four years of drought were noticeable. But technically speaking, I did not plan such a bad weather so I was quickly running out of warm clothes. Sun tanning will be put off until later.
Nevertheless, we got a lot high quality work done. More than 250km/week in the double and in the quad helped us to be more spontaneous when rowing in crew boats. We were 6 scullers on this camp. It is a smaller group and it definitely helps to have a more consistent line up when rowing in crew boats.

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A week at a 100%

Last week was a tough and intense week. Less than 2 weeks ago, we were told that a week of testing, on and off the water, was going to be held in order to select a group of 6 scullers for our last winter camp in Sacramento. At the end of this camp, we will have a month left before our first race in Europe and we are going to get closer to our final line up in the quad that will race the qualification regatta in May. Obviously, this week of testing looked like a week of trials for the quad. On the menu, we had a 6k erg test on Monday, a 2k in single scull on Wednesday and a matrix in double scull on Thursday. No way to hide. It was a week at a 100%.

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Happy 2016

I wish you all a happy 2016 full of happiness and success. 2016 will be full of challenges and surprises. Of course it is an Olympic year and everyone has Rio in mind. But 2016 will be a qualification year at first. In 2008, I was excited to imagine my first Olympic Games. In 2012, I thought too much about the Olympic Games. And in 2016,...well, my imagination does not go further than May 25th and the Luzern Qualification Regatta. Do not ask me the exact dates of the Games. I have no idea. Nevertheless, it remains the main and ultimate goal.

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A busy end of the year

We started December with a training camp in California in the region of Los Angeles. In Malibu. It sounds like a nice way to spend your holidays but for us it was no vacation. 4 hours of cycling every morning biking up and down the Malibu hills. I can tell you that more than 2000m of elevation gain per session is a calorie burner for heavyweight rowers. A 90kg and more on a bike are not easy to bring up a mountain. Most people would have called it a day but we were not on a training diet. A couple hours of rest, just enough time to have lunch torn by two contradictory feelings: eating or sleeping. You know you are hungry but you are so tired that you cannot eat because believe it or not, it is tiring to eat!

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Stay on course

It has been a month and a half now that we are back on the water. It was hard to get back on track. I went through some tough moments late September and I cannot tell you how hard it was to just push off the dock and to be motivated for the National Rowing Championships in single scull. Two weeks off were not enough to heal after such a disappointment at World Championships. Let alone being at the start of a championship and get the machine running to hurt myself deep into a race. But we kept our heads up and we attacked this regatta, early October, ready to prove that we could deliver some good speed.

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Once upon a time

Once upon time, a rower was dreaming of a gold medal at the Olympic Games. But he had to face mountains and deserts to succeed in his quest. Sometimes his quest seemed very far away but he kept going...
I would love to start this post as if it was a fairy tale and I could create a happy end. But I am not going to tell you about the dragons in that story. 2 weeks later, reality is still as morose as before. Rio 2016 seems very far away. I try to look at it upside down but nothing changes. Some people might say that 5 months ago, I would have been happy to be in a boat in Aiguebelette. Others that we can still qualify in 8 months or that we gained in experience and that we only just missed the qualification.

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Home straight

We are currently in Guelph, ON near Toronto for a training camp leading us to World championships (Aug 30 – Sept 6). This is our final preparation for this major goal of the season: Olympic Qualification.

Why Guelph? We came here to test the place as a potential training camp base before Rio next year. Indeed, Guelph is only an hour behind Rio so we will minimize the jetlag effect. It is warm in the summer and Toronto Pearson International Airport is only an hour away. Perfect, no?

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Golden Panams

We left Toronto with a lot of hardware in our luggage and tons of good memories. What an incredible experience to race at home. I understand a lot more why teams competing at their own Games, like in London 2012, are boosted by the crowd. This is an incredible feeling to enter the last 500m and to hear the crowd roaring. It gave me goose bumps. It all started with the opening ceremony. We had the opportunity to go to Toronto on July 10th and march along with 500 Team Canada athletes and coaches. What a feeling to enter the stadium as the host country.

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